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Guidebook for online facilitators

Sharing experiences from climate change


and agriculture communities of practice

MITIGATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AGRICULTURE SERIES

12

MITIGATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AGRICULTURE SERIES 12

Guidebook for online facilitators


Sharing experiences from climate change and agriculture
communities of practice
Maria Nuutinen, Constance Neely, Claudia Garca and Armine Avagyan

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)


Rome, 2016
i

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ISBN 978-92-5-109278-1
FAO, 2016
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Cover photo Credits (from left to right):


UygarGeographic/Shutterstock.com, May 2013
Pinkypills, October 2015
HABesen/Shutterstock.com, April 2016
FAO/Marco Longari, 2015

Contents
Acknowledgements
Acronyms
Glossary
Executive summary
Key lessons learned on online communities
1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook
1.1 What is a community of practice?
1.2 Why online communities for practitioners in agriculture and climate change?
1.3 Background and objectives of the guidebook
1.4 How to use this guidebook and find relevant sections
2. Starting a community of practice
2.1 Things to consider in your planning
2.2 Reaching out to the first members
3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started
3.1 Selecting fora for your community
3.2 Checklist before launching an online community of practice
4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation
4.1 Facilitation or moderation or both?
4.2 Setting the tone and ground rules
4.3 Focus on results: setting the objectives
4.4 Asking questions and focusing interactions
4.5 Timing of activities
4.6 Motivating, incentives and peer-support
5. Organizing online learning events for communities
5.1 Types of online events
5.2 Phases of organizing an online event
5.3 Webinar organization
6. Capturing and communicating information
6.1 Tips on communicating results of online communities
6.2 Options for knowledge and communication outputs
7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice
7.1 Monitoring communities things to keep in mind
7.2 Tools for monitoring impact
7.3 Type and value of feedback data
8. Summarizing our lessons learned
Annexes
References

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Figures
Figure 1: How online communities of practice can help in addressing climate change in agriculture. x
Figure 2: Building communities of practice.
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Figure 3: Key components of online communities of practice.
2
Figure 4: The value of a community of practice.
3
Figure 5: How to use this guidebook.
5
Figure 6: Brainstorming a concept note.
8
Figure 7: The development of the MICCA Communities.
9
Figure 8: Online tools and fora for communities of practice.
13
Figure 9: Example of a Dgroup homepage.
15
Figure 10: Example of a LinkedIn exchange.
19
Figure 11: A typical week and tasks of a facilitator-moderator.
23
Figure 12: View of a webinars active panel discussion.
27
Figure 13: How the Global Food Security and Nutrition Forum works.
29
Figure 14: Phases in preparing for an event.
32
Figure 15: History of learning events organized by the MICCA Programme
39
Figure 16: Structure of the conference sessions on forests and climate change.
41
Figure 17: Example of content classification of webinar recordings.
44
Figure 18: Community members during a workshop on peatlands.
45
Figure 19: Growth of the MICCA LinkedIn group membership.
47
Figure 20: Example of a monitoring output.
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Figure 21: Sectors represented by the LinkedIn membership.
50

Tables
Table 1: Fora used by MICCA communities.
Table 2: Differences between a moderator and facilitator.
Table 3: Types of online events.
Table 4: Frequently asked questions on webinars.
Table 5: Where to focus for monitoring of online communities.

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42
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Boxes
Box 1: Communication via email exchange
Box 2: The MICCA LinkedIn group
Box 3: Netiquette
Box 4: The Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition
Box 5: Conference on forests and climate change mitigation
Box 6: Joint knowledge products through peatlands and climate change community

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Acknowledgements
The lead author of this publication was Maria Nuutinen with Constance Neely, Claudia Garca and
Armine Avagyan as co-authors.
First and foremost the authors would like to warmly thank all the members of the communities of
practice facilitated by the MICCA Programme between 2012 and 2016. In addition, we are grateful
for the input and guidance of many colleagues who have advised and inspired us in the development
of the 11 online communities of practice.
The authors would also like to thank Sheila Cooke and Joitske Hulsebosch for their collaboration
when jointly facilitating events and their experience and insight on how learning events can be
improved. Warm thanks also go to Gauri Salokhe, Nadejda Loumbeva and Michael Riggs who have
helped to develop the skills and knowledge of networks and online communities of practice within
FAO. The authors are grateful to all reviewers and especially the MICCA team colleagues who have
been brainstorming, guiding and giving support in so many ways at each step of the development of
the communities of practice.
Furthermore, we would like to acknowledge the contributions from Marja-Liisa Tapio-Bistrm,
Christina Seeberg-Elverfeldt, Kaisa Karttunen, Denise Martinez, Illias Animon, Janie Rioux, Sabrina
Chesterman, Ruth Mallet, Renata Mirulla, Max Blanck, Gordon Ramsay, Claudia Hiepe, Martial
Bernoux, Marta Gomez San Juan, Martin Gilbraith, Janine Petzer, Paulina Prasula, Rebecka Ramstedt,
Olivier D. Serrat (Asian Development Bank) and Christabel Clark as well as colleagues in the FAO
Technical Network.
This publication was made possible by the generous funding of the Government of Finland under the
project GCP/GLO/270/ MUL, to the FAO-MICCA Programme.
The authors would be happy to receive any feedback on the guidebook:
micca@fao.org and
climate-change@fao.org

Acronyms
CSA

Climate-Smart Agriculture

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FSN

FAOs Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition

IISD

International Institute for Sustainable Development

IT

Information Technology

MICCA

Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme of FAO

UN

United Nations

UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

NAMA

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action

Glossary
Asynchronized exchange

Information sharing that is not live or instantaneous (e.g. email


exchanges).

Climate-smart agriculture CSA is an approach to develop the technical, policy and


investment conditions to achieve sustainable agricultural
development for food security under climate change. At the
technical level it means crop and livestock, forestry, fisheries and
aquaculture production systems, which sustainably increase
agricultural productivity and incomes; enhances adaptation and builds
resilience to climate change; and reduce and/or remove greenhouse
gases emissions, where and when possible, thus contributing to the
sustainable development.
Climate-L

One of the largest announcement lists for policy makers and


practitioners involved in climate change policy discussions, run by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Community of practice

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a


passion for something they do, and wish to learn how to do it better as
a result of regular interactions and co-learning among members. The
communities considered in this guide are based online, an arrangement
that helps to bridge geographical distances while bringing together
diverse stakeholders with reduced hierarchy and costs.

Concept note

An initial proposal outlining the objectives, activities and other details


of a proposed project, programme or initiative.

Dgroups

Dgroups is an online platform designed and developed to facilitate


development through dialogue, providing tools and services needed
to support the activities of a team, a group, a network, a partnership
or a community. Exchanges occur mainly via email, using electronic
mailing lists, in order to remain accessible to low-bandwidth users.
The platform contains with several tools, such as library. For more
information: www.dgroups.info

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Forum, fora (plural)

An online space where users can post messages, links or media as part
of moderated discussion on a specific topic or theme; this is where all
useful knowledge resources and discussions can be found at all times.
A forum of an online community is often based on a larger platform,
such as Dgroups or Facebook.

Learning event

An event describes any activity within a specific timeframe, with


specific objectives inviting participation. Online events require
advance preparation, regardless of whether they are synchronous
(e.g. webinars, live chats) or asynchronous (e.g. online consultation or
email exchange around a specific topic). Online events may employ
communication via email, but are distinguished from recurring or
indefinitely on-going exchanges.

LinkedIn

A social media platform for professional networking and career development.

Online

Any activity happening on the internet using any device.

Netiquette

The correct or socially acceptable way of using the Internet.

Platform

Based online, it is a software, web site or interface where different fora


are based for sharing information and performing online events.

Social media

Websites that allow users to network and share content in a social


network. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Weibo, Twitter,
YouTube or LinkedIn are among the most utilized online spaces for
networking and communities.

Soft skills

Also referred to as people skills or emotional intelligence, soft


skills are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact
effectively and harmoniously with other people. They are an
important professional qualification for moderators, and facilitators
serving a community of practice.

Synchronised exchange

Instantaneous exchange of information, examples include webinars


and live chats.

Webinar

An internet-based seminar. There are several online software allowing


organization of online meetings, seminars and even conferences with
different options for participation and interactive features.

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Executive summary
Member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
have called for stronger capacity development at all levels to address climate change in a variety
of contexts. As networks that draw together members from varied professions and geographic
locations, communities of practice can be an effective, flexible and cost-effective tool to address this call.
Communities of practice are active networks whose members are interested in learning about the
same topics and, as such, can draw on this collective global membership to advance knowledgesharing, innovation and the uptake of best practices to solve critical problems. Applied to climate
change related challenges, functional communities of practice allow a geographically and
professionally varied audience to tackle the complexity of climate change by deepening their
knowledge and sharing expertise.
Climate change is a complex topic involving many inter-related sectors. Experts and practitioners in
different sectors often lack access to vital information and knowledge-sharing platforms to exchange
ideas, seek advice and focus research efforts as well as policies. Across the agricultural sectors, this
limited access to information is compounded by highly technical themes that require constant
learning. To overcome this communities of practice can serve as an efficient and easily accessible
way for information sharing and learning.

Key lessons learned on online communities


There is a growing interest in using online communities of practice to find solutions for climaterelated challenges. However, online communities often face the following challenges:
competing for members time and attention;
creating a shared understanding of complex concepts in a wide range of contexts; and
technical difficulties related to ease of use of online fora.
To encourage the organic development of online communities, this guidebook advises that the
organizations and persons engaged in facilitation would consider the following:
dedicate sufficient human and financial resources allocated to support the facilitation and
moderation of the communities and the organization of learning activities;
facilitate flexibly accommodating organic change within the community;
choose easy-to-use online forum or fora taking into consideration the communitys objectives
and the needs of the target audience;
clearly define the focus and domain of the community with the members;
suggest strategic direction for the exchanges in order to advance meaningful results for the members;
share high-quality materials and avoid overload;
dedicate specific time for learning through online learning events that take place during a limited
period of time; and
request experts to become mzembers and actively contribute to the communitys exchanges.
This guidebook is targeted towards facilitators and moderators of new or existing communities and
managers of units and institutions engaged in setting up and facilitating communities of practice.
The writers define communities of practice and their moderation and facilitation, complementing
general tips with examples from professional insight and activities carried out as part of the Mitigation
of Climate Change in Agriculture (referred to as MICCA) Programme of the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). The guidebook draws on the experience from 11 communities of practice, with
a membership of over 11 000 people from 127 countries. The authors hope the guidebook will be a
one-stop resource bank and comprehensive guide for establishing an online community of practice.

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ONLINE COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE


CAN HELP WITH:
ADDRESSING AN
INCREASED
NEED FOR JOINT
LEARNING

Sharing
evidence and
experience on
climate change and
agriculture

INNOVATION AND
SHARING OF
EXPERIENCE

EXCHANGING
KNOWLEDGE

TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE IN


AN AGRICULTURAL CONTEXT

WHAT IS NEEDED?

Quality content

Easy to use
FORUM for
exchanging
information

EVENTS
Forum

Solutions to
challenges here
and now

Critical mass
of members

Respect
among
members

Skillful
facilitation &
moderation
Learn and
find solutions

A burning topic

Figure 1: How online communities of practice can help in addressing climate change
Figure 1: How online communities of practice can help in addressing climate change in agriculture.
in agriculture

Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2015

GETTING
STARTED

Know your

members needs
and expertise

Consider resources
and training needs

VV

ACTIVATING

Facilitate

exchanges

Organize online
events

ARTICULATING
RESULTS

MONITORING
& REPORTING

Manage knowledge
Summarize key

Monitor progress
Gain feedback

Develop and

Produce reports

content

disseminate
knowledge
products

from members

for members
and information
outputs for
collaborators and
funders

Figure 2: Building communities of practice.


Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2015

xi

1. Introduction: communities of practice


and the guidebook
In this section you will:
1.

Understand the concept of a community of practice.

2.

Learn about the potential components of an online community of practice.

3.

Get advice on how to get the most value from this guidebook.

1.1 What is a community of practice?


Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they
do, and wish to learn how to do it better as a result of regular interactions and co-learning among
members (Wenger 2010). As illustrated in Figure 3 communities of practice include the domain, the
practice and the community who engage across various fora through facilitated exchange.
The communities of practice are often one of the preferred approaches used for change management
in various organizations. They can be referred to as technical networks, study circles or brown bag
lunches. The communities may or may not have any official position, and use a multitude of ways for
exchanging, ranging from regular seminars and coffee table discussions to online fora.
Establishing an online community of practice helps bridge geographical distances and brings together
different stakeholders with reduced hierarchy and cost.

1.2 Why online communities for practitioners in agriculture and


climate change?
The impacts of climate change have required wide scale adaptation, especially in sectors like agriculture
directly impacted by weather and climatic conditions. Therefore there is a need to transform agriculture
sectors quickly and efficiently. Rapid sharing of practical and scientific information is therefore essential
for the sectors to respond adequately to adaptation and mitigation requirements.
Member countries of the UNFCCC have called in the Paris Climate negotiations (2015) for
stronger capacity development at all levels to be able to address climate change. However, many
practitioners in the agriculture sectors lack vital and digestible information and opportunities to
develop their knowledge and skills. New emerging large-scale development paradigms like ClimateSmart Agriculture (CSA) place an additional burden on practitioners to absorb new and complex
information. Online knowledge-sharing platforms have multiple benefits as shown in Figure 4. They
present an efficient way to exchange and explore ways to adapt practices, enhance the mitigation
potential of agriculture and focus research efforts and policies more effectively.
Communities of practice need to urgently assist in improving access to:
information and guidance;
rapid, interdisciplinary collegial support;
support of on-going activities;
inspiration for innovations, actions to be taken and opportunities to seize; and
stronger collaborations and networks for long-term engagement between key actors and
stakeholders in the agriculture sectors. These actors are often working with rural communities
who have been traditionally hard to reach, such as farmers and extension agents.

1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

KEY COMPONENTS OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES


THE DOMAIN

THE COMMUNITY

THE PRACTICE

A shared field of interest that


members are committed to and
value the learning opportunities.

Consists of members who interact


regularly and learn together.

The community members


develop the shared practice
through informative discussion.
The shared practice contains a
repertoire of useful resources,
lessons learned, experiences and
tools, as well as ways to address
shared challenges.

Climate change and agriculture


was the core domain in
communities facilitated by
MICCA

Members include farmers


and land users, development
practitioners, extension agents,
government representatives,
students, scientists and
entrepreneurs.

Key knowledge resources and


shared practical experience on
climate change and agriculture.

THE FORUM

THE FACILITATOR(S)

Establish an online space for


interactions: this is where all
useful links, resources and
discussions are easily accessible.

Actors who help the community


to reach their objectives.
Facilitators guide the community
across the online fora.

A collection of fora has best


served the members:
several email-based exchange
communities on Dgroups
platform
a LinkedIn group
Adobe Connect webinars
web page on FAOs web site

MICCA had a dedicated team


for running the community
of practice, including a staff
member for facilitation and
external facilitators for specific
online events.

THE PACKAGING
Key information is packaged in an
accessible and attractive way. This
consists of online communication,
text, graphics and audio visual
recordings.

Concise and clear


communication has proved
to be most successful with
engaging new and existing
members to the community.

Examples from the MICCA Programme and communities

Figure 3: Key components of online communities of practice.


Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2015, including information from Wenger 2010

1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

MEMBERS

SHORT-TERM VALUE

Help with
challenges

LONG-TERM VALUE

Personal
development

Access to
expertise
Confidence

Fun with
colleagues

Professional
identity
Reputation

Collaboration
advantage

Meaningful
work

Marketability

TIME

ORGANIZATION

SHORT-TERM VALUE

Problem solving

Knowledge
sharing

LONG-TERM VALUE

Strategic
capabilities

Time saving
Synergies across
units

Keeping up to
date
Innovation

Reuse of
resources

Retention
of talent

New strategies

Figure 4: The value of a community of practice.


Source: Adapted by the authors from Serrat, Olivier (2016)

1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

1.3 Background and objectives of the guidebook


The main goal of the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (referred to as MICCA) Programme
of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is to support developing countries in their
contributions to mitigation of climate change in agriculture and facilitate their move towards CSA.
Online communities of practice have played an instrumental role in raising awareness, enhancing
understanding and co-learning, and building new partnerships to support the transformation. The
MICCA team has produced this guidebook to synthesize lessons learned and share experiences
and results on developing online communities of practice. This guidebook is especially relevant for
colleagues facilitating group processes in the international development sector.
Addressing climate change in the agriculture sectors is complex and requires an interdisciplinary
approach as well as an understanding of a wide range of economic, scientific and policy issues.
The range of information can be daunting for policy makers, practitioners, private sector actors,
researchers, scientists and farmers alike, who all seek relevant information. In order to better
understand and reduce agriculture sectors contribution to climate change the MICCA Programme
was established in 2011. MICCA has developed solutions that have led to an increase of agricultural
productivity and helped adapt to and mitigate climate change in agriculture as well as contributing
to the development of the CSA approach.
The MICCA team members felt it was essential to connect with others working in the same field,
and enhance sharing of knowledge to advance the technical work. The team wanted to serve
practitioners in civil society working with the field level actors. An initial network of colleagues who
responded to a needs assessment survey called for an instrument to rapidly promote appropriate
agricultural practices directly to the farmers, and bring the results from the field directly to decisionmakers, researchers and development actors in an impactful and quick manner.
With this rationale, the MICCA team first established one online community of practice as a way to
share information and field experiences on the integration and adoption of climate-smart practices.
As the initial community and online learning event proved to be beneficial to the members, 10 other
communities have subsequently been established.
This guidebook from the MICCA team synthesises the lessons learned, to help others searching for
effective ways to set up and organize online communities and their facilitation.

1.4 How to use this guidebook and find relevant sections


The guidebook has been split up into six different sections, each of which may be more relevant
depending what stage of planning and establishment a readers online community is at. Figure 5
shows the various stages of establishing a community of practice and corresponding section with the
most relevant information to refer to in the guidebook.

1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

WHERE ARE
YOU WITH YOUR
COMMUNITY?

Community
does not exist
yet

Preparing to
launch

Deciding on
the platform

SECTION

1
Introduction:
communities of practice
and the guidebook
Page
1
2
Starting a
community of practice
Page
7
3
Online fora and a
checklist for getting
started
Page
13

Finding ways
to facilitate

4
Guiding online
communities: facilitation
and moderation
Page
21

Organizing
events

Packaging
information

Evaluating
progress

5
Organizing online
learning events for
communities
Page
31
6
Capturing and
communicating
information
Page
43
7
Monitoring, evaluation
and reporting on
communities of practice
Page
47

Figure 5: How to use this guidebook.


1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

Icons and further information



This icon refers to experience and case studies from the MICCA programme

This icon refers to tips and specific helpful hints and ideas from the MICCA team

All materials from the MICCA online communites are accessible through the FAO websites:
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/ and
www.fao.org/climate-change/resources/

1. Introduction: communities of practice and the guidebook

2. Starting a community of practice


In this section you will:
1.

Learn the steps in the process of planning and establishing a community of practice.

2.

Review important factors that shape how your community of practice will operate.

3.

Find ways to identify potential key members and how to reach them.

2.1 Things to consider in your planning


You have a good idea and some potential members, but what should happen next?
When setting the objectives and writing the concept note, start by answering the following questions
preferably with other future members of the community:
Why should there be a community of practice? Any reasons there should not be a community
of practice?
Who should be involved as partner, collaborator or resource person?
What could it look like?
Where (online) could the members meet and exchange (forum)?
Who would have key knowledge on this particular domain?
What would be community members preferred ways to communicate and the timing of those
communications?
What targets, in terms of membership, participation, activities or outputs will the community pursue?
When would be the ideal time for starting a community? What could be good timing of interactions
and events?
Defining the topic or domain with the community is a key process to be completed. As the community
of practice gains new knowledge and experience, the topic will likely also develop and evolve. These
questions above prompt the initial brainstorming and steps to develop a more concrete concept
note for the community of practice as shown in Figure 6.

2. Starting a community of practice

DEFINING THE
DOMAIN

Why a
community of
practice?

Who should join


the community?

FACILITATING TO
SET OBJECTIVES
AND REACH
OUTCOMES

Where should
we focus?

Do members
have time & will
to exchange?

Could some
members help
facilitate?

MODERATION

DEFINING
THE PRACTICE &
THE MEMBERSHIP

How do we want
to exchange?

Who should
manage the
forum?

What could
or should we
achieve?

Vision for
the next two
years?

What forum
could we use?

Figure 6: Brainstorming a concept note.

Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2015

Clarify the longer term vision


Be clear on the difference between a task force or a project team compared to a community of
practice. Having a vivid online community of practice with the critical mass of members often takes
several months, even up to a year and a half. Therefore, it is important to see the creation of a
community as a long-term investment. In planning for the future consider:
What do you want the community to achieve in two or three years?
What kind of impact would you like to have and where?
What are the possible returns for a longer-term investment of resources?

An evolving concept note


The concept note will need to be a live iterative document which can be revisited for example once
a year, as the members shape the community and its activities. Circulate your concept note with key
contacts in the target audience, and with relevant people in your team and organization, in order to
improve and receive wider support for it. Remember to keep the concept note and the communitys
domain focused.

2. Starting a community of practice

Total
membership in
all fora

Teams actions

Project starts

Needs
assessment
Bringing a
facilitator on
board
Launch of
the first
community
Start of
learning
events
New subgroups on
Dgroup forum

Rapid
increase in
membership

Training other
FAO units &
organizations

10 000
members

MICCA Project
ends
Continuation
of most active
communities

2
0
1
0
2
0
1
1

2
0
1
2

2
0
1
3

Community of practice component inserted


in the MICCA Project Document

Recruitment of moderator - facilitator


Needs assessment
Training on community management
preparations

Community for Climate Change Mitigation


in Agriculture created on Dgroups & LinkedIn
platforms
Web pages created
Peatlands & climate change mitigation group
created on Dgroups & website to support a
partnership
Preparation of learning events
Training on organization of online meetings
Spanish-speaking subgroup created
New partnership contributed to wide visibility:
30 000 views of webinars
Trial of 7 digests of news related to CSA
New subgroup created on Dgroups for
livestock-focused discussions

2
0
1
4

French-speaking subgroup created


New subgroups for CSA, gender
mainstreaming and youth
Sustainability strategy discussed with other
units
Coaching 8 community facilitators

2
0
1
5

Collecting material for this guidebook


Training FAO colleagues on community
facilitation
Community created for people involved in
national mitigation actions
First webinars uploaded to YouTube
First event with limited participation to field
practitioners

2
0
1
6

Main activities

Agreements with other units to continue


moderating communities
Guidebook launched to support facilitation
Project hosting the communities ends
Other units in charge of moderation

Introductions

40

420

Proposals for learning


events

1st learning event on


Conservation agriculture &
climate change mitigation

2nd learning event on


Agroforestry & climate
change

1 870

Learning events on
Livestock
Peatlands
Learning events on
Gender & CSA
Climate-smart agriculture
Livestock lifecycle
assessments

7 800

Learning events on
Gender & CSA
Climate-smart agriculture
Livestock lifecycle
assessments

Learning event on
CSA in the field

10 000

11 050

Webinars on
Climate negotiations
and climate finance
Community facilitation
for specific target
audiences
Livestock environmental
impact assessment

Figure 7: The development of the MICCA Communities.


2. Starting a community of practice

Be transparent with the institutional setting and facilitate objectively


A community of practice is not only influenced by its members, who will frame and form the style
and content of the exchanges, but also by the nature of the communitys institutional setting.
Moderation and facilitation shouldalways aim to remain neutral to grow a community spirit amongst
varied participants. The type of organization that is hosting the online forum or coordinating the
facilitation and moderation can impact the community. The team involved in the support of any
community should be conscious of their potential bias, the potential impact of the institutional
setting, and use all potential support they may get, given that it benefits the communitys objectives.
In all cases it is necessary to aim for highest degree of transparency in all communications.

Institutional context
If the community of practice is part of a project
or organizational change process, be sure to
write a concept note and obtain commitment
from your co-workers on the definitions,
objectives and expected outputs as well as
other success criteria of the community.
Considering the sustainability of maintaining
a forum, it is recommended to have a clear
institutional setting from the start.

MICCA Institutional setting


The MICCA communities were facilitated as part
of the six-year MICCA Programme, managed by
the Climate Change and Environment Division
of FAO. The underlying organizational structure
cannot be overlooked when describing the
history of the communities facilitated by MICCA.
There are certain unique advantages as well
as drawbacks concerning this setting including
legitimacy and structures for information
technology and corporate communications.

Plan according to resources


Different kinds of resources are needed for a community of practice:
knowledge and experience;
motivation to work with large networks of heterogeneous stakeholders;
dedicated time available;
forum or meeting place; and
funds (especially for staff time, licenses and training).
Be realistic when considering available resources, their sustainability and possibilities in terms of an
online forum (for example due to corporate norms or limitations imposed by internet connection).
A key resource is your facilitator, who should:
be socially-oriented, with experience in understanding of group dynamics and behavioural science;
be aware of cultural norms and differences, and appreciate different opinions;
have working knowledge of all used languages;
enjoy finding a consensus through a fruitful and efficient discussion;
have a technical understanding of the practice and domain; and
have a good handle on information technologies (and/or experience in the field of communication
and social media).

Capacity development needs


The moderator-facilitator must carefully view how the communities are evolving and identify needs for
capacity development and further training.

10

2. Starting a community of practice

Outline collaboration potentials


Joining forces with other organizations or institutions is one of the best approaches for creating a
successful and sustainable community. Reaching out and collaborating with other organizations will
bring additional perspectives and will strengthen the results by leveraging joint skills, experience and
resources. Finding potential collaborators can be done through background research, networking
and contacting various organizations that are relevant for the domain at hand.

Key members or collaborators


As part of the preparations, it is recommended
to make a thorough search of other
communities exchanging on a similar or
related domain and those covering the same
geographical area. Have they already set up a
community where you could contribute easily?
Would they be willing to collaborate? Is their
forum user-friendly, or could it be developed
jointly? It may be sensible to team up and
keep the number of relevant fora limited to
save resources and leverage a much bigger
and richer audience by reducing overlap and
redundancy.

MICCA External collaborations


The MICCA team has often collaborated with
externally hired webinar facilitators, other
organizations and teams within FAO to bring
together the key experts to present in and
facilitate the webinars. While coordinating
often has required additional time and
transaction costs, engagement of partners has
ensured that the learning event results reach
wider networks and that new members join the
communities.

2.2 Reaching out to the first members


One of the main steps of building a community of practice is to bring together a good mix of members
who can fulfil the objectives and actively contribute to the community. Learning how to target
potential groups of members (e.g. an expert audience) and setting the appropriate tone is crucial.
When identifying and inviting potential new members, the objectives of the community of practice
should be clear. Depending on the desired membership, potential members can be explored and
targeted by:
topic;
level of and type expertise (e.g. senior, entry, capacity development, research);
country and region;
background or organization (e.g. private entities, civil society, academia, development
organizations); and
language(s).
After deciding on the member criteria and the specific actors that the community could benefit,
the team can proceed with approaching potential members. This often opens the doors to different
kinds and levels of expertise and forms the base for more fruitful exchanges.
Start scoping for and interacting with potential members through the most popular communication
channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn groups, especially if your target audience is active in
these fora. The team member responsible for outreach should keep in mind the objectives of
the community, what it offers and the selected criteria used to recruit members in order to keep
messaging streamlined and consistent.

2. Starting a community of practice

11

12

2. Starting a community of practice

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started


There are several online fora that can be used for communities of practice, as shown in Figure 8,
which can help in identifying a suitable forum for different activities.

SH
AR
IN
G

E
IS
T
ER
P
X

SharePoint

KN

Intranet

DropBox

Aardvark

&

Wikis
Google Docs

Workspace

StumbleUpon

Metafilter

O
W W

Delicious

E
DG
LE K
R
O

DOCUMLEENDTS &
GE
KNOW

Yammer

Yahoo Answers
ExpertsExchange

Backpack

Writeboard

Wikipedia

ONLINE TOOLS
& FORA

Vimeo
YouTube
Coursera

Fora

eHow

Google Video

TED

Facebook

www.fao.org/elearning/
Adobe Connect

NC M
SY OM
C

Twitter
Skype

H
U RO
NI N
CA OU
TI S
ON

Yammer
LinkedIn

Online meeting platforms

Twitter

AIM MSN gchat Meebo


Google Hangout
Webinar

UN
IT
IE
S

Webinar

SharePoint

IISD list
Campfire

Fora
Dgroups

ONLINE LEARNING

Etherpad

Basecamp

K&
WOR ECTS
PR O J

www.kstoolkit.org

Email lists

Google groups

GROUP DISCUSSI

CO

ON

Figure 8: Online tools and fora for communities of practice.


Source: Etienne Wenger 2010, updated and modified by Claudia Garca and Maria Nuutinen

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

13

3.1 Selecting fora for your community


The following section and list of key areas may help you in defining which tools might suit your
community best.

Platform functionalities
What kind of events are you planning to organize? Would the community benefit from an online
meeting, a conference call, a webinar or an online conference?
How technologically savvy are the members and the facilitator?
Is the platform easy and accessible, e.g. with cell phones often used in remote rural areas?
What resources are available to get people familiar with the platform (e.g. existing guidance
materials, time for guiding and meeting people)? Are there opportunities for shared learning on
how to use the platform in the easiest way?
Do you need to spread the invitations to join your community or online events? Would the community
benefit from a social media presence? Can you support human resources to manage this?
Is there an automatic spam check in the platform? Does it automatically filter any message sent
more than once?

TIP Survey your community


A good way to estimate the need for different features is to conduct a short online survey for the
target audience suggesting some tools compatible with existing resources. Send reminders for the
survey to key people highlighting its importance and giving a deadline for inputs.

Invitation and registration


How do members register?
Can you request them to fill in a form with some detailed information related to the domain and
the members interest?
Will the member information be visible for all in your forum?
Can anyone request a membership? Do the new members need to be approved?

Types of exchanges
What type of exchanges do you envision coming from your key target group or fellow practitioners?
Would participants prefer posting photos, longer emails, blogs or short tweets? For example
if the community is exchanging on the topic of agricultural practices, the best medium may be
photos and videos instead of email.
How often would members prefer to receive exchanges?

Access to the exchanges


What is the speed and capability of internet connections from desk or mobile devices of the

14

majority of your members? Is email the most user-friendly option? Will members be able to
access webinars?
Are the moderation and interventions easy and accessible e.g. from smartphones?
Are you expecting members to exchange during the working hours or in their free time?
Is there a language dimension to consider?
Access to exchanges and/or resources: with a password or visible for all?
What are the necessary functionalities you can envisage? You may consider linking in features
such as email, noticeboard, calendar, a photo repository or a wiki-space for collaboration and
creation of outputs.

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

Figure 9: Example of a Dgroup homepage.


Source: Dgroups forum https://dgroups.org/fao/micca

Contribution frequency and summaries


How many contributions or messages might you be expecting daily, weekly or monthly?
Should they be moderated or should all contributions go to all members immediately?
Are summaries of exchanges necessary?
Can members choose the frequency of contributions they receive, e.g. to their email inboxes?

MICCA communities on email-based platform are moderated, and members are approved for joining.
In LinkedIn, we apply selective moderation (e.g. LinkedIn allows moderation to those members who
have no or little connections, in order to verify if they are real people).

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

15

BOX 1: Communication via email exchange


The email-based forum used for the communities facilitated by MICCA has been the most viable
way to reach practitioners who have low-bandwidth internet access. While only a fraction of the
membership can join a webinar, most members report that they follow the email exchanges, and see
that this is increasing their knowledge and enriching their practice. It is good to keep in mind that an
active member is not necessarily sending messages to all members.
Most fruitful exchanges in our online communities have been sparked from facilitation questions and
members inquiries to a specific challenge. What is common with these emails is that they are often
rather short and pose a clear question and a request for others to reply. Here are some examples of
active email discussions:
Email subject: Can agricultural intensification be climate-smart?
Response summary: this email received 32 replies from colleagues.

Email subject: Which method are we adopting for implementation by farmers among the
following methods so far discussed: conservative agriculture, ecosystem-based adaptation, or
climate-smart agriculture?
Response summary: 23 replies were received discussing the similarities, compatibilities, and
potential conflicts between different agricultural approaches.

Email subject: The Plant production and protection Division of FAO sent an inquiry email
seeking to identify research institutions and organizations in Africa working on integrated
natural resource management using participatory methods.
Response summary: Within two days eight replies had come in with specific examples and
institutional contacts.

Sharing knowledge resources


Do you need a library or a repository for useful resources?
Can everyone access these documents or are they password protected for members-only?
Would you need to develop joint documents allowing members to co-edit the same documents

simultaneously?
Ensure the sharing and editing protocol for documents is easy and intuitive so that edits are not
lost.
Does the moderator have time to guide members and keep the documents organized through a
folder structure?
What would be the most functional structure for the shared folders? Will members easily find
the key documents?
Who has the right to save documents into the shared folders?
Are these skills easy to learn? How will you build capacity amongst the members?

Would you need a shared calendar?


Are there many important events that will be shared?
Who will be in charge of updating the calendar?
How frequently can it be updated?

16

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

Table 1: Fora used by MICCA communities.


MAIN CRITERIA FOR
SELECTION

FORUM AND MAIN


FUNCTIONALITY
Dgroup: email, potential to use
calendar, library and member
profiles

LinkedIn: group functionality; chat;


job announcements

Adobe Connect online meeting


forum: webinars, online meetings,
polls

Website: medium to present the


overall work with communities and
gather all materials for the learning
events

LINK

Email is the preferred means


of communication
Usable with low bandwidth
internet connection
Simple functionalities
Data is protected

https://dgroups.org/fao
and
www.dgroups.info/

Allows members to connect on


a visible social media platform
Helps to spread outputs to
other social media

www.linkedin.com/groups/4277736

Allows a wide variety of


participatory facilitation
techniques
Webinar recordings can be
edited and downloaded

Example of a webinar recording:


http://bit.ly/fao-webinar-namamongolia

Corporate website of the


project in charge of the
facilitation

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/
international-fora/join-onlinediscussions/faqs/

TIP Options for synchronised exchange


There are several free or low-cost options for synchronised exchanges, such as conference calls with
limited possibilities for sharing documents or using chats.

The Google Hangout is a free application with synchronised exchange allowing up to ten users to
connect at once through video chat and instant messaging.
Skype or calling in on a mobile or landline. Although not entirely free, Skype call charges are low.
For large audiences there is a suite of online conferencing services, which, at the time of writing,
allow up to 5 000 individuals to be in the same online meeting room.

The costs of running communities of practice vary, but neither the fora nor their licenses are generally
expensive. If you choose a forum without cost, bear in mind that the security of your data, including
contact details, and the long-term sustainability may be compromised.

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

17

BOX 2: The MICCA LinkedIn group


MICCA established a dedicated LinkedIn group as it allows for:
Professional connections and networks
The LinkedIn group allows the community members to connect and network professionally
with each other.
A lighter way for exchanging
The LinkedIn group chat offers a less formal style of engagement. Insights from evaluating
the community have shown that approximately 1520 percent of our community members
prefer communicating on a chat platform versus email exchanges. There have been multiple
suggestions to move from an email-based discussion and directing communication through
a Facebook groups (which is currently not allowed within our organization).
Many of our sister communities such as the e-Agriculture community, also facilitated
by FAO colleagues, started their Facebook group when this was allowed, and their longterm facilitator has commented that it has totally revolutionized the popularity of their
exchanges.
More public visibility
As members had requested the Dgroup discussions to be for members-only, we needed
a visible platform, supporting our web site, which would strengthen also the social media
presence to extend the membership. Therefore, it was important to have a visible window
for our exchanges on a popular social media exchange platform. LinkedIn has also helped
in attracting new members from our members networks, and spread the word about our
learning events, such as the Gender and CSA event.
Technical discussions
It provides a public space for sharing technical information and relevant documents and
the opportunity for increased visibility encourages communicating professional expertise.
Figure 10 shows an example of a technical exchange where a members article on
agroforestry and climate change initiated 22 replies.
At the time of writing (April 2016), the membership of the LinkedIn group is the largest of
the MICCA communities with 3 600 members. In addition it has the most rapid growth in
membership by an average of 15 members a day. However, based on the monitoring results,
the LinkedIn community members do not seem to access the shared materials very often.

18

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

Figure 10: Example of a LinkedIn exchange.


Source: LinkedIn group Climate Change Mitigation in Agriculture, https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4277736

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

19

3.2 Checklist before launching an online community of practice


Choosing an engaging topic
Does the topic inspire the facilitating team?
Do potential members have the will, knowledge and time to share on this specific topic?
Are there new results, knowledge products or academic discussions about the topic to make the
discussions fruitful?

Does the topic entail elements that could be risky for members to comment upon? Is it possible

to create a context and safe space for a productive discussion even if there are opposing
perspectives?
Have negative exchanges previously occurred? What contextualized language or rules of
engagement can be put into place to ensure an open and honest discussion?

Serving the membership


Who is the main target community member?
Who are the members and potential members?
What are the main needs and priorities of potential members concerning the topic?
What are the potential range of skills, knowledge, expertise, concerns and risks associated with
the potential members?

Is it easy for members to participate and follow the discussion?


Does the facilitator and/or moderator have enough time to attend to the regular facilitation and

background work? As a rule of thumb, double the time estimated (e.g. for organizing an online
event).
Is the frequency and range of activities useful? How can we avoid overloading members and/or
providing uninteresting content?

Establishing the forum


Are there resource people for technical content support when needed?
Is the organizing team familiar with the existing topical online forum or fora?
Is the institution or funding ready to invest in the community development for a relatively

20

long period of time? (It can take well over six months before having an active exchange on a
community.)
Is there enough flexibility in the development plan for the community? Remember that
communities are made of individuals and will develop through an organic, dynamic process.
Do the operational team have the necessary soft and technical skills to moderate and facilitate?
With the available resources, can fora be made accessible and attractive for the right target
audience?
Is there a plan to monitor and demonstrate the benefits of the community?

3. Online fora and a checklist for getting started

4. Guiding online communities:


facilitation and moderation
In this section of the guidebook, you will:
1. Learn why both moderation and facilitation are important for a functional online community.
2. Compare the similarities and differences between facilitation and moderation.
3. Review a number of best practices for efficient and effective facilitation of your community.
The concept of facilitation and how it differs from moderation often causes confusion. Good
facilitation is essential to guarantee that groups of people are able to work together efficiently and
achieve their goals. In the MICCA Programmes work, facilitated face-to-face workshops and online
events have been central for collaboration, involvement of experts and the introduction of new
ideas to the activities and outputs.

4.1 Facilitation or moderation or both?


Commonalities between a facilitator and a moderator
The moderator and facilitator collaborate closely or they can be the same person, especially
when managing an online forum.
They need to be neutral and avoid having an agenda or a personal objective.
Both can summarize the previous exchanges, reach out to potential members and collaboration
partners.
During online activities, such as learning events, both need to be accessible to members who
have questions or concerns.

TIP Managing responses


A facilitator and moderator are likely to receive a lot of requests and queries, especially at the initial
stage of a community, if the functionalities of a forum change or during learning events. It is often
necessary to inform members about this in advance, set the limits and focus on the most important
requests. It is cost-efficient to send a specific guidance (e.g. on modifying settings to receive a digest of
emails) to the whole group, not only for the person requesting the information.

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

21

Table 2: Differences between a moderator and facilitator.

MODERATOR

FACILITATOR

Guides and helps members in the usage of the forum/


fora, the netiquette and with the rules of engagement

Provides equal opportunities for members to share their


different viewpoints to be shared

Manages the membership

Observes the content, style and rhythm of the


interactions

Manages the settings of the forum as needed

Must be familiar with the topic (knowledgeable with


current issues, interventions and research) and the
types of actors engaged

Maintains a rhythm of activities: e.g. approves messages


to the email list 23 times a day on working days

Takes a proactive role in taking the discussion forward

Monitors and reports on the development of


membership and activities

Continually assesses: what is needed now? What is the


atmosphere in the community?
Thinks: what question would spur ideas sharing? Is
there a member whose involvement would be especially
useful at this point?
Contacts members and request inputs or consultations

TIP For moderators and facilitators on the use of fora


Become an expert in the functionalities of the forum of your community. Dedicate enough time to
guide people on the use of platform especially during the online events.

MICCA Facilitation
The MICCA Programme hired a dedicated person as a moderator-facilitator, chosen for her background
in civil society and her experience with online movements and the latest social networking tools. The
tasks related to moderation, facilitation and organization of online learning events took approximately
40 percent of the persons work time. Specific tasks included writing for four different fora, guiding
up to 11 000 members in English, Spanish and French, and three to four online events per year. On
occasion, two to three technical experts and one experienced webinar facilitator has focused on
content matters during the process of a learning event (with less than 30 percent of their working
time). Senior communication colleagues gave advice in the setting up of the platforms as well as
the finalization of knowledge products. Also, one to three younger consultants with communication
experience have supported the guiding of learning event participants during the webinars.
Over the Programmes lifetime, the teams experience and technical knowledge has increased and
has been supplemented by external and internal training. The training has covered facilitation skills,
use of online conferencing tools and language skills. In addition, other MICCA and FAO staff members
provided communication, administrative and technology support.

22

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY
& SUNDAY

Checking all is
well (fora)

Sending
facilitation
message

Preparing an
event concept
note

Disseminating
an upcoming
learning event

Starting
webinar
presentations

Keeping the
exchanges to a
minimum

MIDDAY

Replying to
inquiries
& guiding
members

Use twitter to
both send and
reply to tweets

Preparing
webinar &
facilitation

Guiding
webinar
speaker on
the meeting
platform

AFTERNOON

Coordinating
with the team,
partners &
collaborators

Searching
for & making
contacts with
learning event
collaborators

1 HOUR

MORNING

MONDAY

TIME SPENT

ONLINE FACILITATORS WEEK

Approving
members
Approving
24 messages

45 MIN

Sending
facilitation
message

2 HOURS

Approving members and moderating messages

1 HOUR

Coordinating
with communications expert

45 MIN

Replying to inquiries & guiding members

Figure 11: A typical week and tasks of a facilitator-moderator.


Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2016

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

23

4.2 Setting the tone and ground rules


Setting an atmosphere and enabling environment for sharing and discussion is essential for members
to interact with one another. This includes clear rules of engagement which will help advance the
dialogue and encourage comments that are in line with the topic and contain useful information or
knowledge about the practice. It is important to set boundaries; what the domain of a community is
and is not about. In addition making it clear that the purpose is to achieve these objectives and not
to undertake advocacy positioning without evidence. For equal participation the facilitator should
also ensure that not one voice or perspective is dominating the discussion.

BOX 3: Netiquette
Netiquette means the correct or acceptable way of using the Internet.
For an online forum, you can choose to create your definition of netiquette, and post it to online for
example to a section for frequently asked questions.
Source: Authors and Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 2016.

Most members usually follow the basic rules of good behaviour. It is also beneficial that everyones
names and contact details are available which incentivises more representative and respectful
interactions. On a few occasions we have reminded a community about netiquette as the ground
rules of respecting other users views and displaying common courtesy when exchanging
within the public fora, and avoiding references to culturally sensitive or religious issues. We have
encouraged members also to explicitly state how their messages or interventions could be useful for
others working on climate change and agriculture. We also recommend people to sign their emails,
give some basic information about their work and send short emails with only light attachments.
Responding to members queries is essential whenever possible so that they continue to participate
in the discussion and realize that there is a value added by being an active part of the community.
Responding to questions and comments will help create an atmosphere for discussion and exchange
and keep people motivated to maintain their participation.
There are also signs to look out for that could negatively impact the atmosphere and impede
discussion. Proactively catching negative remarks, that are neither constructive criticism nor
relevant to the discussion will send the signal that the sessions is monitored for successful and
lively conversation. Be on the lookout for these types of comments from members, and if necessary,
moderate discussions that may lead to conflictive debate in an even-handed way.

4.3 Focus on results: setting the objectives


Clarifying the outcomes of your online activity
The starting point of designing any online activity, be it a webinar, e-consultation or meeting, is
clarity on the desired outcomes: what is the outcome we want to have achieved by the end of the
event?
Examples of outcomes of an online event:

increased awareness on the topic and good practices;


evidence made available from researchers; and
creation of learning across sectors.

24

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

As an example of an output, the learning event on Agroforestry, Food security and Climate change
(Annex 3: Summary of the learning event Agroforestry, food security and climate change learning
event, 2013) contributed to the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition
on 2013. This outcome gave the members a targeted focus and increased the motivation to contribute
to the results of the event.
Following clarification of the events outcomes, the organizers can set the objectives of the online
event. Objectives are the means to achieving the outcome and should therefore be directly matched
to the outcomes.

Objectives of a learning event


If an outcome of a learning event is for members to have a greater sense of practical and successful
applications of climate-smart practices in specific farming systems in a specific agro-ecological zone,
then the objectives could be to:
create a working discussion among development practitioners, farmers, advisory services and
researchers who have experience and evidence related to implementing integrated crop-livestocktree-fish systems and risk reduction;
compare practices in different farming systems and agro-ecological zones; and
gain clarity on the evidence that these practices and farming systems can add value in terms of
addressing climate risk.

4.4 Asking questions and focusing interactions


Building on clear objectives, expected outputs, outcomes and the participants involved, the questions
the facilitator uses to prompt interventions drive the successful exchange or event. Questions serve
an essential role in ensuring active participation, putting participants at ease for sharing experiences
and information and building towards the overall outcome. There is both an art and a science to
designing questions for face-to-face and virtually facilitated processes. However, with an online
community of practice, question design becomes even more important as the facilitators do not
have the benefit of seeing body language feedback to the questions when asked.
When facilitating a community, you can also expect that members behave differently at different
times. Preparation and strategic proposals or questions a facilitator poses can inspire good and
abundant replies in some moments or go without any responses in others.

Question types
Questions tend to fall in four main categories:
Opening questions are aligned with introductory materials and are meant to build a friendly
atmosphere, bring participants comfortably into the context and dialogue, help them focus their
attention and encourage participation. In some instances, opening questions can be provocative
to spur critical brainstorming amongst participants.
Informational questions initiate the exchange of experiences and information among participants
around the topic at hand. These questions are meant to cast a broad net to shape the conversation
in a direction that will lead toward the groups objectives based on evidence and experience.
Deepening, reflective and interpretive questions allow the participants to reflect on what has
been shared, think more critically and look for trends, consider biases and test assumptions, and
identify areas of agreement and potential tensions or disagreement to help build the case for a
meaningful synthesis.
Concluding questions are those that shape the collective conclusions of the discussion outcomes
and next steps.

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

25

Making questions work


Developing questions that work is a skill that is acquired through experience. However, there are
a number of lessons learned that can guide you towards asking meaningful questions that render
valuable responses. Some key principles from our experience and supported by the work of Strachan
(2007)1 include:
Stay respectful, neutral and objective:
Be sensitive to power imbalances and potential conflicts and ensure that questions honour the
participants and are not talking down.
Do not ask leading questions. Ask questions that allow responses based on personal or
professional experience and evidence to emerge.
Ensure participants know there are no right answers.
Welcome responses in languages relevant to the gathered participants.
Make use of both closed and open questions:
Closed questions are used to get at specific information while open questions require thought
and stimulate discussion and reflection.
Phrasing matters:
Use simple language.
Keep questions focused, short and clear while inviting thoughtful responses.
One of the best ways to test your questions is to try to answer them yourself.
Be flexible. While you may draft all of your questions in advance of the event, the process and
responses may require you to change the questions or shift the order. It is important that the
questions keep the conversation on track, but the questions may evolve with the discussion and the
facilitator needs to be flexible along the way.

MICCA Facilitation questions


The following facilitation questions were sent via email as part of an online learning event on climatesmart agriculture that took place in June 2014:
Question How to best communicate the need to change agricultural systems to be more climatesmart especially to smallholders? Do you have some tools for that?
Question What are the challenges with extension services when talking about climate-smart
agriculture?
These questions sparked a rich email discussion with over 84 direct replies, and over 174 exchanges in
four days on the Dgroups forum.

1Strachan, D. 2007. Making Questions Work: A guide to what and how to ask for facilitators, consultants managers, coaches, and
educators. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

26

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

Figure 12: View of a webinars active panel discussion.


Source: FAO 2015, http://bit.ly/CSAField_webinar_Laganda

Focusing a discussion topic


A facilitator must set the boundaries of the discussion to ensure that the discussion progresses.
Should the discussion become side-tracked, the facilitator needs to refocus the discussion topic,
whilst acknowledging the variety of opinions on the topic.

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

27

Requesting focus
Do not be shy in requesting focus from the members. Every time the moderator allows unrelated
messages to the list, it becomes more difficult to justify what can and should not be shared.

4.5 Timing of activities


Just as in a face-to-face event, the facilitators need to maintain the members interest using an
organic rhythm in the activities with an eye to what is needed or what is emerging for the group. It
is useful to not fill all media and channels with constant interventions, but to focus the exchanges
for specific time periods or learning events. Outside the learning event periods facilitators guide
members in their discussion, moderate the email list exchanges and share interesting information
about related events, publications and other useful knowledge.

MICCA: Scheduling, time management and the need for facilitation


Allowing for some free time in the communitys schedule gives members space for processing,
the emergence of inquiries and potentially for more silent members to come forward to share their
experience, event or publication. When planning any event, it is good to take into account what else
is happening at the same time, including major regional or global events or especially busy periods for
your target audience, such as harvesting.
Once a community exceeds 400 members we have found that the community appears to go over a
threshold and engages in regular exchange even without active facilitation.

Synchronized and asynchronized exchanges


A combination of synchronized (e.g. webinars or live chats) and asynchoronized (e.g. email exchanges)
events seem to work best for many communities. Members have different preferences, schedules
and connectivity limitations, and they appreciate the opportunity to participate in different ways
and on different fora.
Without the combination of differently timed activities, interventions tend to come from only those
who have time to draft a comment or who are within the same time zone. Members taking part in
asynchronized exchanges are more likely to prepare interventions if there is a clear purpose or an
output planned, such as a policy brief. In this way, there is a greater incentive for sharing experiences
and perceptions.

4.6 Motivating, incentives and peer-support


When aiming to increase the usefulness of a community, and motivating its members to share their
knowledge, it is good to remember that most members like to engage in groups. This is in order to
share their interests and understanding of the topics where they can add some value and receive
appreciation.
Providing easy access to important knowledge sources relevant to the domain is the often the
major motivating factor to engage in a community. Given the current overload of information, the
community of practice should work as an important and efficient source and a means to develop
ones know-how, not an additional burden. Beyond the possibility for knowledge exchange, people
may be interested in joining a community of practice or participating actively because there is an
incentive. These vary but can include the following internal and external motivators:

28

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

peer support for testing and implementing specific efforts and ideas. Knowing that there are

others in the group that are willing to exchange information, tips and experiences is really what
first incentivises an individual to join a community of practice;
opportunities to discuss with professional and practical experts, at various levels;
opportunities to promote results and success stories;
contributions to and acknowledgement in a publication or participation in a later face-to-face event;
opportunities to register diverse views;
cerificate of participation (if attendance can be monitored);
filling an individual knowledge gap; and
providing information to actors new to the field.

THE FAOS GLOBAL FORUM ON FOOD SECURITY


AND NUTRITION

Project or
programme on
food security and
nutrition

Seeking
inputs from
stakeholders

Collection &
summary of
contributions

Figure 13: How the Global Food Security and Nutrition Forum works.
Source: Max Blanc and Renata Mirulla

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

29

BOX 4: The Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition


Engaging stakeholders in policy dialogue
By Max Blanck and Renata Mirulla
FAOs Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum) is an online platform for knowledge
sharing and stakeholder dialogue on food security and nutrition. Launched in 2007, the FSN Forum has
over 20 000 registered members representing a wide range of stakeholders interested in engaging with
policies, programmes and critical issues related to food security and nutrition.
The Forum has organized over 150 online discussions and consultations at the global, regional and
country level, and has built targeted networks that provide discussion spaces for issues particularly
relevant to a region (i.e. West Africa, Europe and Central Asia) or to a thematic area of interest (i.e.
right to food, protracted crises).
Most importantly, outcomes of the online discussions inform projects, research and policy processes,
thus enriching the knowledge base and supporting inclusion of tacit and local knowledge. Through
the FSN Forum, experts and practitioners from around the globe have the opportunity to influence
processes that they otherwise would not be able to participate in (see Figure 13 above).
Topics for online discussions and consultations are proposed and facilitated by experts (members of
the network, FAO staff and staff from other development agencies and institutions) and are open for
input from all members and other interested participants, who can join following a brief registration
process. The FSN Forum provides FAO with an additional and efficient channel through which to carry
out its role of convenor and neutral broker of knowledge on food security and nutrition, while ensuring
quality and the provision of technical guidance.
Over the years the FSN Forums online discussions and consultations have allowed processes such as
the post-2015 development agenda, the Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition,
the drafting of High-Level Panel of Experts reports, the Guidelines for Responsible Agricultural
Investment, the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management and many more at the global,
regional and national level.
Online discussions of the FSN Forum are open for three to four weeks. The moderation team compiles
regular digests in order to keep members informed and prepares a summary at the end of each online
discussion.
To promote an active and growing membership and to improve the participation rate, as a new
discussion is launched the FSN Forum moderators carry out a series of advertising campaigns both
inside and outside FAO, including extensive use of social medial channels, awareness-raising activities,
and contacts with other networks and experts interested in the topic discussed.
The FSN Forum Team who manually approves every single registration and check all comments
received ensure high quality of interactions. Automation is avoided as much as possible.
Among the challenges faced by the FSN Forum that are inherent to the global reach of the Forum
and to the technology it relies upon are: providing a full coverage of the UN languages, the level of
literacy needed to participate, the need for access to a stable Internet connection, and interactions on
different subjects that are occurring at different times between members.
For more information: www.fao.org/fsnforum

30

4. Guiding online communities: facilitation and moderation

5. Organizing online learning events for communities


In this section you will:
1. Learn the four phases in organizing an online event as well as the roles, responsibilities and
outputs required at each step.
2. Explore the unique challenges and opportunities of hosting a webinar.

5.1 Types of online events


In choosing the most appropriate event type for enhancing the learning and activating exchanges
within your community, it is important to consider the potential gains (from learning opportunities)
and costs associated with the time and money required to organize the event. It is also important to
evaluate the specific learning objectives and the needs and expectations of participants. As outlined in
Table 3, the choice of online event will depend on the learning goals and intended outcomes. Having
a clear widely communicated understanding of the specific learning outcomes will help in choosing
an appropriate event medium, reducing unnecesary workload and limit the risk of disappointment or
frustration on the part of either participants and presenters.
Table 3: Types of online events.

POTENTIAL
NORMAL
DURATION FOR LEARNING

ESTIMATION
COSTS AND
ORGANIZATIONAL
TIME

Online
course

28 weeks

High

Online
consultation

28 weeks

Medium

Medium

See Box 4 on FSN Forum


(page 30)

Online
conference

16 weeks

Medium

High

See Box 5 Case Study The


effectiveness of online
conferences; conference on
forests and climate change
mitigation

Online
learning
event

14 weeks

Medium

Potential expenses of the


forum or fora and the
speakers; 2 weeks to 1
month of work time

FAO-MICCA learning events


with several webinars

Webinar

30180
minutes

Low to high

Online meeting forum


license; Working time
approx. 13 days per 1
hour of webinar including
the preparations 3

http://www.fao.org/
in-action/micca/
resources/learning/
peatlands-learning/

A social
media
sharing
campaign

Hours to
weeks

Low learning
potential. Focused
only on awareness
raising

Working time only

www.thunderclap.it

Group call

12 hours

Low to medium

Low to medium

TYPE

High

EXAMPLES

e-Institute of World Bank


http://einstitute.worldbank.
org/

Social media

2 Cost of online events is normally lower compared to face-to-face meetings.


3 The preparation activities include: definition of the objectives, the key questions, and activities of the session.

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

31

5.2 Phases of organizing an online event

IMPLEMENTATION
Webinars and facilitated
discussions via email and
social media

PLANNING AN
EVENT

PH

AS E 2

PH A S E 1

PH

AS E 4

PH A S E 3

ANNOUNCEMENT

CLOSURE

Enrollment and
building understanding
on the topic

Requesting feedback,
putting together a
product, evaluation and
sharing the results

Figure 14: Phases in preparing for an event.


Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2015

Planning an event
What?
The planning phase requires a clear timeline and budget to structure innovative brainstorming
on what the aim of the event is and how to meet the objectives of the organization and online
community.

MICCA Inclusion to work plans


The team has often included tentative learning event topics in the Programmes yearly work plan, and
approached potential partners well in advance to find the most suitable time for all co-organizers. In an
ideal situation, the planning period starts over six months before the event takes place.

32

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

How?

Find an ideal time for the event; taking into account other major events, schedules of intensive

agriculture and climate activities such as related meetings and negotiations. Target periods when
your members are preparing specific reports or outputs for which they could use the information
from the event.
Prepare a draft concept note and finalize in agreement with the core team and partners.
Brainstorm on the needs and focus of the event with varied and experienced stakeholders and
members of the future team.
Define the key focus and objectives of the event, including expected outputs and outcomes.
Consider the languages that the content should be made available in, and assess the potential
resources for translation and proofreading, facilitation of discussion, or how to take this into
account in the communication efforts.
Form the final core project team and define roles and responsibilities (e.g. who is the key
technical expert and who produces the webinars).
Define milestones and what happens if they are not reached.
Define the key target audience to take part in the event (e.g. with objectives for members from
new countries, ensuring a good gender balance). Engaging in institutional partnerships for online
learning events is an effective way to capitalize on time and resources and engage a wider audience.
Define needs for additional training and resources, such as external experts or consultants and
webinar licenses.
Find the most relevant content and speakers for the event (e.g. from colleagues working on
the topic, institutional blogs, list-serves and relevant academic journals e.g. for agriculture and
climate change, e.g. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment).
Explore other similar initiatives, potential collaborators or partnerships and medium for
collaboration and dissemination.
Prepare a draft programme.
Confirm some speakers and suitable time for the community, speakers and organizing team.
Train new team members for use of the fora, webinar support and potentially the subject matter
before the event preparations start.
Make a communications plan with priority actions.

Who does what?

Producer manages the whole organization of the event.


Facilitator helps in focusing the event and supports the building of the programme, with the

producer and the technical team, especially from the point of view of participation and learning,
and meets in advance with the speakers.
The facilitation team (including: people supporting on IT issues, the speakers and participants)
builds the programme
The technical team focusing on the content.

Outputs

event concept note;


budget;
list of team members and their roles;
event date;
announcement draft; and
the draft programme.

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

33

Funding
Preparing online events requires almost as much work as organizing any other major event with
hundreds of people attending. Make a special effort to obtain partners, supporters and sponsors for
example from the directors of an important partner organization. Influence budgets and work plans
at an early stage to ensure sustainability of facilitation: ensuring a sustained facilitation often needs
a sustained fund, and at least one dedicated person to ensure that resources for moderation and
facilitation will be included in the organizations budget and the work plans.

Announcing an event
What?
In announcing the event, it is important to ensure that a broad representation of potential
participants is notified of the event and contacted in a way which is both convenient for them and
which facilitates effective participation. In addition, the timing of invitations and reminders must be
appropriate to the level of commitment and planning required from them. This may necessitate the
use of several communication methods and regular follow-up.

How?

Present brief information of the event: technical focus, dates, who can or should participate,

how materials will be shared after the event and how the event will roll out (e.g. combination of
webinars and email-list discussions).
Update the project team timely of the process and the potential changes in plans. Defining more
specific tasks as they appear.
Collect necessary background information about the participants for planning of the event
activities (e.g. most common time zones, agro-ecological zones and climates and types of actors).
Understand key points of interest, questions and challenges related to the topic for the planning
of the webinar content.
Reach out to new members and organizations for collaboration and to spread the invitations.
Send calendar invitations for the webinar(s) with short and clear guidance on how to participate.
Build awareness of the particular topic and event.
Encourage participants to get familiar with the background materials and disseminate the related
knowledge products, such as blogs, videos, articles and publications.
Ensure that the planned focus of the event responds to the capacity development needs and
challenges of the target audience.
Understand in what ways participants want and can take part and plan accordingly:
Clarify the skills with information technology and their Internet connectivity level.
Communicate in agreed languages. If you have decided to cover several languages, be sure
to communicate in all those languages for the duration of the learning event.

Ensure that expected target audiences, including diverse relevant stakeholder groups from

different regions, have received the invitation and that there are both male and female
participants.

Who does what?

Marketer (can be both the moderator and the facilitator, or the person in charge of
communications): disseminates the event invitation to target groups.
Facilitator: monitors the questions coming from the enrolled participants; and prepares the
facilitation plan.

34

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

Outputs of the announcement period

Collected background data through an enrolment form where participants can share their
questions related to the topic of the event.

Monitored participants interest, rate of enrolments and gender, institutional and geographic

balance and questions submitted.


Revisited the concept note of the learning event so that it responds to the participants needs,
especially in regards of the webinar programme and the facilitation questions.
Informed the participants that they will be joining a specific email-based community and that
they will receive more information about the event through that community. This is especially
valuable if you are building a longer-lasting community.
Shared easy-to-access background material on the topic, preferably through a link, avoiding
heavy attachments.
Background information about the participants and their expectations provided to the speakers.

Event implementation that invites participants to share challenges and


find solutions

The objectives of this phase are to:

Ensure participation is not hindered by technical difficulties.


Increase the sense of participation and sharing within the community.
Share related best practices and knowledge in a structured and condensed way, continually
engaging participants to share their knowledge.

Give positive feedback to those who have given their inputs and strengthen the community

spirit.
Move the discussion forward, arriving at clear definitions of what is being discussed and concise
conclusions on the main content.
Take into account the feedback as the event evolves and making adjustments when needed, e.g.
regarding the frequency of communications or languages.

How?

Launch the learning event through a webinar or initial facilitation questions.


Send key questions regularly to the exchange forum to focus the discussion.
Moderate the messages on chosen platforms of the event frequently, at least twice daily (e.g.

email-list, social media forum).


Implement 23 webinars with experts presentations, question and answer session(s), discussion
time and summary.
Combine content from the exchanges and provide written summaries and webinar recordings
and links with the email-based discussion.
Guide personal exchanges, supporting participants with challenges connected to the use of
online platforms.
Monitor the participation and formally request feedback at the end of the webinars.
Carry out a rapid evaluation with the organizing team immediately after major events such as
webinars. Share brief notes of these evaluations with participants and capture the lessons learned.

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

35

MICCA team responded to community requests for additional languages by creating Spanish and Frenchspeaking sub-communities.

Who does what?

Facilitator hosts the webinar session, introduces speakers, decides on the sequence of the
questions, ensures proper follow-up of the session;

Producer and/or Moderator comments on presentations, manages all fora, including the
webinar platform and guides speakers in issues related to the fora ;
14 speaker(s);
12 support persons for participants;
Attendees (1100 persons):
have expectations which need to be managed;
differing participation desires;
differing internet connectivity and technical online experience; and
need to be guided in the platform usage and webinar netiquette.

Note-taker or rapporteur prepares the summary based on all content.


Outputs of the implementation period
Documentation material:
the discussions;
presentations;
recordings of webinars;
rough notes of the main results;
conclusions; and
summaries (including list of questions asked during the webinars and answers to them).

Closure and sharing of results


What?
The closure of the event is the phase that ties all of the work to date to a formal close and allows a
wider sharing of the key results.
The objectives of this phase are to:
receive feedback from the participants;
evaluate with the organizing team: what was especially useful? What would you change in the
next event? What other useful things the team has learned?
share the results of the related efforts during the implementation phase;
acknowledge all the colleagues and participants that have offered insights or backstopping;
prepare concise summaries;
communicate with the community about next steps and how they can continue in, or leave the
community;
close the event formally; and
process and upload the recordings to the communitys fora with links to the material.

36

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

How?

Disseminate key content to key networks with potential partners.


Update community web sites or communitys library with the presentation slides and links to
webinar recordings as quickly as possible after the webinars.

Collect feedback from participants by both quantitative and qualitative means.


Provide participants, speakers and partners with summary of results with links to the recordings
and request them to share the results with their networks.

Who does what?

Facilitator ensures proper follow-up of the session, including summaries, thanking all contributors.
Producer and/or Moderator guides members and/or webinar participants in how and where
they can continue engagement in the topic.
Speaker(s) can answer some final questions, including outside the webinar sessions.

Outputs of the phase closure and sharing of results

thank you message:


list of contact details;
final product(s) and reports; and
including results of dissemination efforts.

MICCA Summarizing an agroforestry learning event


The final technical results of a learning event are made up of all component parts of the online event.
Our learning events have normally consisted of the expert presentations in the webinar sessions;
questions and discussions in the webinars and those exchanged in the email-based and social media
platforms.
Taking into account all inputs and weighting their importance for a concise summary is often the
most challenging of all tasks in online event. When organizing MICCAs second learning event on
Agroforestry, Food Security and Climate Change in 2013 (see Annex 3: Summary of the learning event
Agroforestry, food security and climate change learning event, 2013), the organizing team invited
members to help in drafting the summary of the learning event. The members, FAO technical experts
and MICCA team all contributed sections to the document after a short workshop on the webinar
platform. An online cloud service platform was used to construct the draft that allowed several
persons to edit the document simultaneously. The document draft was further restructured and edited
to create a fact sheet, an accessible medium that was shared widely, including in a side event of a
global conference, to create awareness of agroforestry as a practice which enhances food security and
addresses climate change.

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

37

rch 2016
Ma

WEBINAR: SBSTA & AGRICULTURE IN 2016


PERSPECTIVES FOR ASIA
www.fao.org/asiapacific/events/detail-events/en/c/1301/

In collaboration with the


Wageningen University & FAO
Livestock Division

In collaboration with FAO


Regional office for Asia & the
Pacific, ASEAN and CCAFS


2016

MANURE A VALUABLE RESOURCE!


www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
livestock-learning/

54.5%

In collaboration with the Global


Food Security & Nutrition Forum
(FSN). Discussion took place on
the FSN forum and during the
webinars

CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE IN THE FIELD


PLANNING, IMPLEMENTATION & UPSCALING
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/csa-learning/

over 16 000
members in their
reach

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
foodsecurity-learning/

il 2 0 1 5

259 enrolled participants

A pr

developing country
developed country
country in transition
other

il 2 0 1 5

CLIMATE CHANGE, FOOD SECURITY & NUTRITION

60%
37%
3%
2%

40%

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/namas-learning/

tober 2014

38

60%

2014

40%

M ay

96 enrolled participants

Oc

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS FOR RESPONSIBLE


PEATLANDS MANAGEMENT
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/
learning/peatlands-learning/

60%

GETTING READY FOR THE NATIONALLY APPROPRIATE


MITIGATION ACTIONS IN AGRICULTURE

26 Countries

60%

A pr

FSN

40%

CSA

ber 201

45.5%

571 enrolled participants

to
Oc

466 enrolled participants

In collaboration with the


Platforms Finanzas Carbono,
which organized 1 webinar in
Spanish

In collaboration with the FAO


Climate, Energy & Tenure
Division. 1 800 participants
followed the email-discussions,
took part to the webinars or
watched the webinar recordings
afterwards.

CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE ONLINE LEARNING


EVENT
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/csa-learning/

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

START

S
ep

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
agroforestry-learning/

A Spanish-speaking sub group


created to the Dgroup platform
Over 10 000 views of the
presentations slides & recordings
within two months of the event.

UARY 201

Highlights of the event: a


factsheet on the learning event
on conservation agriculture for
the community members

In collaboration with the


FAO Agriculture & Consumer
Protection Department

tember 20
1

CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE FOR CLIMATE


CHANGE MITIGATION

Highlight: a document on
learning event for agroforestry
& climate change mitigation in
the International Conference on
Forests for Food Security and
Nutrition

AGROFORESTRY, FOOD SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

R
EB

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/agroforestrylearning/
In collaboration with the

FAO Agroforestry & Climate
Change Team in the Forestry
Department, Tropical
at least 9 countries
Agricultural Research & Higher
Education Center (CATIE); World
Agroforestry Center (ICRAF); &
TOWARDS CLIMATE-RESPONSIBLE PEATLANDS
Agricultural Research Centre
MANAGEMENT
for International Development
(CIRAD)
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/
learning/peatlands-learning/

Oc

tober 201

ber 201

to
Oc

The peatland community of practice


Peatlands & climate change mitigation
group for Organic Soils and Peatlands
Mitigation Initiative on Dgroup
platform.

40 participants
Webinar: 20 participants

560 participants in the whole

TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH LIVESTOCK:


GLOBAL ASSESSMENT & MULTI-STAKEHOLDER INITIATIVE
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/livestocklearning/

ary 201
4

GENDER & CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE

members from over 58


countries in 5 continents

Ap

community of practice

and Asia

the recording was viewed by


125 people


Jun

In collaboration with the FAO


Livestock Information, Sector
Analysis & Policy Branch

36 countries mostly in Africa

MICCA TALKS ON CARBON SINK CAPACITY OF


FRUIT ORCHARDS

571 members in the livestock

ril 20 1 4

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
csa-learning/
In collaboration with WOCAN
Women Organizing for
Change in Agriculture & Natural
Resources Management

236 expert members

bru
Fe

learning event through the


online community

www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
livestock-learning/

e 20 1 4

LEAP LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT GUIDELINES

Figure 15: History of learning events organized by the MICCA Programme.


5. Organizing online learning events for communities

39

BOX 5: Conference on forests and climate change mitigation


By Illias Animon and Ruth Mallett, FAO
A simple idea: the idea emerged from the need to bring together experts and facilitate information
sharing without travel (thus avoiding CO2 emission), yet without compromising the advantages of a
physical meeting. The conference was named Economics of climate change mitigation options in the
forest sector.
A big goal: the aim of the conference was to provide the platform and facilitate the exchange of
information and lessons learned on the costs and benefits of mitigation options in the forest sector of
various countries. Preparation began approximately eight months before the event with consultation
of the MICCA Programme.
Innovative process: from the start to the end the event was innovative. A virtual platform allowed live
participation of the online audience. A call for submissions of abstracts of case studies was open to all.
51 presentations were pre-recorded and uploaded to the website, allowing participants to view them
and prepare for the webinars.
Well-conceived structure allowed for cross-fertilization of ideas: the conference consisted of six twohour long sessions that took place over a month. Every session had three components as shown in
Error! Reference source not found.
Teamwork an essential element
The conference was powered by a cohesive team, which was essential to ensure the sessions ran
smoothly. The training provided by and the presence of two experienced professional facilitators
contributed to the success. The team members evaluated and discussed potential improvements at
the end of each session.
Better than expected outcomes
More than 900 people participated in the conference, including 51 presenters and ten guest panellists.
The online format allowed participants from 114 countries to actively participate in questions and
answers sessions with topic experts. Participants had the opportunity to share their own experiences
and knowledge.
Reduced resource needs and logistical challenges
The event allowed flexibility and avoided logistical challenges that come with organizing a face-toface event. In addition, a learning-by-doing approach meant feedback from the participants and team
members could be used to improve future sessions.
Reduced environmental footprint
Despite broad participation from all over the world, CO2 emissions were low; a rough calculation
indicates avoidance of 729 000 kg CO2 emission (considering air travel alone that was avoided). This is
particularly important for climate change themed events.
Lessons for the future
The conference shared information cost-effectively and innovatively; pioneering the possibilities
of a new forum, which was likely to attract presenters and participants for future events. Internet
connectivity and time zones were the biggest pre-conference concerns but were not significant issues
in the end. Strong interest and participation within a limited timeframe meant time was insufficient
to answer all participant questions. Therefore, a method for enabling additional interaction (possibly
asynchronously) should be considered prior to another event. Targeted communication to relevant
interest groups is recommended to avoid the drop in participation experienced in the last two
sessions, which were quite industry-specific.
All presentations of the conference can be viewed on the FAO corporate YouTube channel:
http://bit.ly/fao-forestry-playlist

40

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

Q&A
2 PRESENTATIONS

A Keynote presentation
A case study

PANEL DISCUSSION
AND Q&A

Question and answer


time with all presenters

PLENARY
DISCUSSION

Participant input
Feedback gathered
through a series of focus
questions

Figure 16: Structure of the conference sessions on forests and climate change
Source: Illias Animon and Ruth Mallet

5.3 Webinar organization


Challenges
The possibilities of online fora and technologies to allow online meetings are evolving rapidly. People
all over the world have faster and better internet connectivity and portable devices that allow them
to participate in synchronised sessions. This allows participants to present and contribute to the
discussions at the same time. Unfortunately, the evolution of technologies is not universal. In some
instances limitations on internet access or computer programme failures have meant that a huge
amount of preparatory work for an online event has been wasted and the anticipated outcomes not
achieved.
With webinars there is always an inherent risk related to the technology that the organizers need to
be prepared for. Consequently, risk management and solid knowledge of the webinar platform are
needed. It is important to have an experienced user of the webinar platform present at the session,
able to rapidly troubleshoot and do the necessary preparations in order to avoid technical problems.

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

41

Running a webinar
Ensure quality content and focus.
Offer relevant content of high quality in a summarized and accessible way giving time and space

for improving this knowledge through participation and interaction.


Ensure webinars are best suited for the topic at hand and your target community.
Be clear on your purpose for the event, e.g. general exchange of information versus a report
launch or specific training on a specified topic and outcome.

Technical backstopping

Send short and easy guidance on how to login and attend the event and regular reminders

leading up to the event.


Record webinar presentations in advance to minimize any technical issues.
Address questions from participants in advance of the webinars, which are commonly related to
the use of technical platforms, e.g. the audio questions, being able to view slides on the screens.

Table 4: Frequently asked questions on webinars.

QUESTION

ANSWER

What types of content can be


conveyed in a webinar session?

Brief and clear presentations, some participatory activities, such as polls and
chats

What can go wrong and how


to prevent that?

Main problems are caused by sound quality issues and failing or low
bandwidth internet connection. Technical support and guidance before and
during the webinar helps to solve approximately 95 percent of these problems

How big a session can still be


efficient?

Large conferences of up to several hundred participants can be efficient


and even interactive to a certain extent

Plan the structure and facilitation of any session well taking in to account

the expected number of participants and rules for engagement circulated


before the webinar starts

Where to focus in the design of


a webinar?

Focus on the content that should be conveyed and invest time in

Our participants are not taking


part or leave the webinar
session. What to do?

Ensure that the communication on the topic and focus of the webinar is

preparation

Realistic scheduling combined with good time keeping is important


clear

Participatory means of learning with participants need to be used to


maintain interest

Change the tone, speed and speakers of the webinar and actively reach out
for comments and contributions

Make the webinar visually appealing and engage frequent breaks for
question and answer sessions with audience engagement

42

5. Organizing online learning events for communities

6. Capturing and communicating information


In this section you will:
1.

Understand options for effective communication of communities outputs.

2.

Examine some options for synthesizing and communicating results.

Managing communities of practice requires good knowledge management. This entails capturing the
knowledge, validating with the members of the community that they agree to the conclusions, further
packaging this knowledge in an easy-to-digest form and then disseminating it to wider audience.

6.1 Tips on communicating results of online communities

Bring in communication experts.


Work closely with communication experts in your organization and wider network. Draw
from examples of successful social media platforms, for example using visual elements and
short synthesis messages.
Be clear on the purpose.
Remember that you should be communicating with a purpose. The knowledge collected
should respond to the needs of the community.
Consider the difference of a knowledge product and a communication product.

Help in gathering institutional memory.


Dedicate time in creating a clear and accessible folder structure for storing the key content

(e.g. documents and links).


Make sure members can save content in the communitys forum (e.g. in a library) and know
how to search for it.
Consider different audiences.
Think of whom else outside your community could find the information and knowledge
generated in the community useful.
Clearly attribute.
Be respectful of members participating in the discussion and acknowledge their contributions.
Disseminate in ways to attract the expert and practitioner.
Seek out and build relationships with contacts who can share targeted, well-thought content
in a concise, visual and easy-to-access format, at a suitable level of technical knowledge and
at the right time (e.g. concerning policy processes or international climate negotiations, or
before a sowing period).

6. Capturing and communicating information

43

Figure 17: Example of content classification of webinar recordings.


Source: www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/ Accessed 15 April 2016

Knowledge management
For more information on knowledge management and communications and their differences in the
context of agriculture, see for example: Knowledge management, learning and communication in value
chains A case analysis of the speciality coffee value chain of FAPECAFES, Ecuador by Reinhild Bode,
CIAT. Available at: www.fao.org/nr/com/gtzworkshop/final%20report_fapecafes.pdf

44

6. Capturing and communicating information

BOX 6: Joint knowledge products through peatlands and climate


change community
Armine Avagyan
Since 2012 the MICCA team has moderated and facilitated an online community with 245 peatland
and climate experts from 42 countries. The team initiated the community jointly with Wetlands
International after the launch of the global Organic soils and peatlands climate change mitigation
initiative.
The community brings together an informal network of researchers, practitioners working for
international organizations, private consultancy companies, civil society and national entities, all
committed to reducing emissions from peatlands and safeguarding the other vital ecosystem services
that peatlands provide. In distinction to other online communities of practice that MICCA facilitates,
the peatland community has more academic members and many of them know each other personally.
The topic of the community; a specific soil type and climate change mitigation, is defined in a more
narrow way compared to other communities. This is definitely an asset that allows addressing the
topic in a deeper and more detailed manner.
Among others the community includes members from the ten member organizations of the global
Initiative, such as Wetlands International, Greifswald University, International Union for Conservation
of Nature (IUCN), the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the International Centre
for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
For three years, members have been sharing information about new publications, upcoming
workshops and conferences as well as their own activities, incrementally establishing it as valuable
platform for knowledge on peatlands, their management and the relation to climate change. Members
can use the community forum to disseminate information but also to jointly develop knowledge
products. For example, during the development of a factsheet on peatlands and climate change,
the community was asked to provide evidence and supporting findings. Members sent a number of
replies with interesting facts in response.
In 2012 and 2014, the collaboration among community members resulted in two FAO publications:
Peatlands guidance for climate change mitigation by conservation, rehabilitation and sustainable
use and Towards climate-responsible peatlands management. The involvement of multiple
institutions enabled the collection of state-of-the-art knowledge and developed a feeling of
joint ownership. Joint ownership helped also to ensure usability and wider dissemination of the
publications and the webinars based on them.
In May 2015, the wealth of knowledge and experience in the group allowed the MICCA programme to
launch an online collection of peatland management practices. Members submitted 16 case studies
for the collection page following a specific template that the MICCA facilitation team provided.
In summary, one of the main success
factors for developing a specialized
community is to involve the key people
involved in the domain with deep
knowledge on the topic, organize
events (e.g. workshops and webinars)
that allow for the production of joint
knowledge products.
To access the community, visit:
http://next.dgroups.org/fao/peatlands
More about MICCAs work on
peatlands:
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/
knowledge/peatlands-and-organic-soils/

Figure 18: Community members during a workshop on peatlands.

6. Capturing and communicating information

45

6.2 Options for knowledge and communication outputs


For the purposes of this guidebook, we have highlighted a range of options for capturing and
disseminating the knowledge gathered from events and exchanges. The list of relevant outputs is
categorized by the time period available for creating and disseminating outputs.
If you have less than two hours:
Website update
Event invitation
Email (well-structured, concise and providing links to further information)
Email to other relevant email lists (consider needs for internal and external communication, also
personal contacts)
Photo
Social media message (remember these require regular presence, following groups and key
organizations and persons, use of hashtags and shortened links)
If you have less than a week:
Figure or image (on an impact, outcome or a key process)
Promotional material (flyer, logo, banner)
Briefing note
Presentation slides (add to SlideShare or web site)
Project description and/or summary
Stories: a story from the field, impact or outcome or policy success story
Interview article
Guest blog on a partners site
Blog (needs to be continuous)
Press release
Products to consider with more time and people involved or requiring continuous efforts:
Fact sheet
Article to a (web) publication (e.g. Huffington Post)
Newsletter (needs to be continuous)
Photo series (e.g. to Flickr)
Poster: key messages, results
Report (progress, travel, field activities, event summary)
Infographic (with data)
A webinar
Policy brief
Working paper
Online learning event
Peer-reviewed article
Web portal (e.g. CSA)
Publication (book, guide, co-written, edited)
Sourcebook
Short video
Longer video (e.g. a feature length documentary).

46

6. Capturing and communicating information

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on


communities of practice
In this section you will:
1. Consider the importance of timely and effective monitoring, evaluation and reporting for an
online community of practice.
2. Learn a number of tools to help in both the collection and analysis of monitoring and evaluation
data.
3. Review guidelines for effective reporting and communication of progress against agreed
indicators and lessons learned.
Monitoring your online communitys activity, quality and amount of the content shared, membership
development and emerging topics is vital for ensuring the communitys continuation and
effectiveness. Monitoring and generating evidence of use and engagement into the community also
justifies investment and resources for its continued development. It is good to consider the available
monitoring tools as part of your selection criteria for which online forum to use. The monitoring
element to any online activities needs to be integrated early at the planning phase.

7.1 Monitoring communities things to keep in mind

Expect change: a community is like a living organism that evolves over time.
Focus on the essential: think about what is worth monitoring to demonstrate the impact.
Share results: think about who could be interested in hearing about the communitys activity.

TOTAL MEMBERS
5 000

July 2014:
1,567

2 500
0

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2012

2013

2014

2015

NEW MEMBERS
100
50
0
2011

Figure 19: Growth of the MICCA LinkedIn group membership.


Source: LinkedIn group Climate Change Mitigation in Agriculture, accessed in 2015
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4277736

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

47

Table 5: Where to focus for monitoring of online communities.

TOPIC

WHERE TO GET
THE DATA

QUESTIONS FOR
ANALYSIS

NEXT STEPS TO
CONSIDER

Technical
content and
variety

Forums list of
discussions

Is the community fulfilling its


purpose and responsive to
members needs?

Request and propose how to


develop the content

Relevance

Web statistics,
Shortened clicks
on links, Forums
discussions

What are the members actually


interested in?
Is there clarity of key concepts or
at least what is being disagreed? Are
the newest technical innovations
taken up? Are they being put in
context?

Facilitator to help in keeping the


focus in the discussion

Percentage
of active
members

Forums or platforms
monitoring tools

Is it always the same people replying


to each other? Are all the sides of
the discussion represented or some
important views being left out? Has
something changed recently?

Facilitator to reach out to


request others to share their
results or concerns

Real
discussion and
exchanges
or disparate
messages

Length of
communication
threads Email lists
or Forums tools

How much interaction, replies there


are on a certain topic? Are there
many questions left unanswered?

Facilitator to summarize the


threats with especially many
replies, or take up important
topics that have not received so
much attention

Growth or
diminution
of the
membership

Platforms data:
recommendation to
monitor at monthly
basis

Has something changed recently?


What could be done to turn the
tide?

Facilitator to ask for feedback


online and personally from
familiar members
Take corrective action Organize
events
Disseminate more efficiently

Gender and
geographical
balance of the
membership

Enrolment and
feedback forms

Does the community reach all


necessary stakeholder groups? Are
there some stakeholder groups that
are more presented than others?
What is the gender balance?

Person in charge of marketing


and dissemination and facilitator
to think of a strategy and reach
out to different groups or key
organizations with the lagged
experience
Source: Maria Nuutinen, 2016

7.2 Tools for monitoring impact


It is important to find tools that are easy to use and offer visual and numeric representation of the
results, preferably also available as a spreadsheet form. Here are some tools that you may want to
consider:
Web analytics of the visits to your web pages, e.g. through Google Analytics.
Shortened links that tell you who has clicked on the links, and approximate location at country
level and how many times the links have been shared. Some examples: Bit.ly, Ow.ly.
Online surveys are extremely useful for gathering data both in qualitative and quantitative
formats, for example: SurveyMonkey and Google Sheets.
During the webinars you can use also polls. We have tested tools on Adobe Connect and
GoToWebinar fora.
Individual social media platforms offer their own tools for monitoring interactions and use.

48

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

MICCA Online events


Online events have given a good opportunity for monitoring the value of the community. In the
announcement and enrolment phase we collect information on the needs, priorities and expectations
of the participants. At the end of each webinar and event we also give an opportunity to give feedback
on the event. In general at least 95 percent of people giving feedback wish to take part in next events,
and in general at least 80 percent assess that the learning event or the webinar has been useful
or very useful considering their work on climate and agriculture. These results of monitoring and
evaluation have been very useful when reporting and demonstrating how the communities have made
a difference as well as challenging the team to take on other priority topics.
After high attendance and positive experience, the MICCA team has been also invited to train and coach
10 other teams within FAO in the facilitation of online communities and preparation of webinars.

Figure 20: Example of a monitoring output.


Source: Dgroups forum https://dgroups.org/fao/csa_event/members/overview

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

49

MICCA monitoring to improve events and planning


Our team has found it useful to monitor on a monthly basis to track the most active communities.
Active monitoring happens with a request for proposals and suggestions at the time of enrolment
to the events, and at the end of each webinar and learning event. For planning purposes for the
upcoming year or prior to major decisions concerning the communities members opinions were
sought via specific emails as well as online feedback or suggestion forms.
The MICCA team has used four main sources for collecting the data:
the data given by the platforms (Dgroups, Adobe Connect and LinkedIn) (see Figure 21 and Figure
22) including the messages and questions sent by members, the membership development and its
geographical distribution;
the information on the number of clicks on the links that we have sent to our communities (e.g.
through Bit.ly);
the number of visits to the shared web pages; and
online polls and surveys which allow an easy and visual presentation of the data.

Research

18%

Consulting

12%

Program & project


management

12%

Education

6%

Operations

4%

Entrepreneurs

4%

Figure 21: Sectors represented by the LinkedIn membership.


Source: LinkedIn social media platform

7.3 Type and value of feedback data


Following recommendations for scientific surveys, feedback should be requested in both quantitative
and qualitative format. See an example in Annex 2: Example of a feedback form on a learning event.
The quantitative questions, e.g. please grade this learning event in terms of its content with numbers
from 1 to 10 (highest) are very useful to enable presenting the feedback easily in a graphic form.
When finalizing web events or other online events, the facilitator prompts key questions:
What is your take-home messages from this event? What would you tell a friend or colleague if
they asked you about the event?
What will you do differently as a result of this event?
What are your next steps?
Analysing these qualitative responses takes longer, but the replies have more weight and are very
useful in the design of subsequent events.

50

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

Analysing the feedback


It is essential to analyse feedback on online events. A lot of the feedback may consist of easy
things that one can address during the planning sessions to avoid any other errors, e.g. time zones,
information sharing in advance, input on topics etc.
When analysing the feedback, remember that each community member normally only represents
themselves in a community, not his or her organization. Remember the bias; people in the same
community may give overly positive feedback, and those that are not happy vote with their feet and
leave or remain inactive. After the analysing phase, it is good to reply to the most common feedback
or suggestions, and to see to whom the results should be reported.

MICCA Reporting against community indicators


The communities form a part of MICCAs Programmes document and implementation plan. For
monitoring within our team we have set some quantitative success indicators for our yearly activities,
which we report against.
The most common feedback our team has received is a request of more facilitation, e.g. summaries of
discussions, and their translation into different languages. Unfortunately resources, mostly available
staff time, have made it challenging to address some of the requests.

Information options
Proving that communication, training,
webinar, online discussion or a capacity
development activity has impact is sometimes
difficult. Numbers and qualitative information
can be valuable to persuade different people
on the importance and need for dedicating
time to the communities of practice.

MICCA Use of the monitoring results


The data and information gathered regularly
have been extremely valuable for two main
reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, the
feedback has informed the development of
the facilitation as well as the guidance given
to the members. Secondly, based on the
feedback, we have been able to demonstrate
the value and usefulness of the communities
to the community members and the project
underpinning the communities of practice,
as well to partners and other interested
organizations. It is important to showcase the
results to those making decisions regarding the
budget and time use as well as evaluators and
donors.

Focus of a community of practice


It is important to remember during monitoring, reporting and evaluation that a community of practice
exists to serve its members and the whole domain of the community.

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

51

52

7. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting on communities of practice

8. Summarizing our lessons learned


This summary intends to gather the main lessons learned.

Starting a community of practice


Review important factors in shaping how your community of practice will operate:
the function it will serve,
who will be involved and how,
the format of the forum, and
the timing of the interactions.
Clarify the longer-term vision, the impact you would like to have and the possible returns on a

long-term investment of resources.


Plan according to resources and collaborate where possible.
Identify potential members to target and means of how to reach them.
Before launching your community: decide on the domain of the community with your peer
members ensuring the topic is engaging.

Online fora
The forum should not be the starting point nor the focus of the launching period.
Define which forum is best suited to your community, based on:
activities of your community,
types of exchanges, and
forums functionalities.
Facilitation and moderation of online communities
Commonalities between a facilitator and moderator include:
neutral agenda;
both reach out to potential members/collaboration partners; and
both need to be accessible to members during learning events.
Differences include:
a moderator manages and monitors the development of the members and forum settings; and
a facilitator takes a proactive role in developing the discussion and enabling different

viewpoints to be shared.
It is important to intentionally create an enabling environment for focused discussion, through
clearly defined community objectives, outcomes and discussion rules (based on general
netiquette).
Keep up momentum and maintain members interest through a combination of synchronized
and asynchronized exchanges.

Organizing online events


Each of the four phases of preparing an online event; planning, announcement, implementation

and closure include specific roles, tasks and outputs for the organizing team.
Technical difficulties with connectivity and sound quality form the largest challenge to webinars.
Running a successful webinar requires:
quality content,
focused topic,
enough time for discussion; and
a strong technical support team ready to deal with potential issues ahead of the event.

8. Summarizing our lessons learned

53

Capturing and communicating generated information and knowledge


Knowledge management is key for capturing the results of the exchange of communities of practice
and for improving institutional memory.
Successful knowledge management and communication requires:
bringing in communication experts,
having a clear purpose,
making key knowledge easily available,
clearly attributing and thanking contributors, and
effective dissemination to interested audiences.
Advance positive and sustainable development on the ground by sharing successful case studies
through the community fora and by synthesizing information into digestible form.

Monitoring, evaluation and reporting


Monitoring your online communitys activity, quality and amount of the content shared, membership
development and emerging topics is vital for ensuring the communitys continuation and effectiveness.
Online events give a good opportunity for monitoring the usefulness of the community.
Share results; think broadly and strategically who would be interested in hearing about the
communitys activity.
With these lessons in mind, the MICCA team recommends establishing and developing an online
community of practice!

54

8. Summarizing our lessons learned

Annexes
Annex 1: Useful resources
Abel, J.A., Gates, C. & Parsley, D. 2013. Facilitating Online Communities of Practice (Lessons
Learned series): http://interwork.sdsu.edu/sp/ntc/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2012/12/
Facilitating-Online-Communities-of-Practice-Lessons-Learned.pdf

Asian Development Bank. 2011. ADB Resources for Communities of Practice: Creating Value
through Knowledge Networks. http://www.adb.org/documents/adb-resources-communitiespractice-creating-value-through-knowledge-networks

Cambridge, K. & Suter, V. 2005: Community of Practice Design Guide A Step-by-Step Guide for
Designing & Cultivating Communities of Practice in Higher Education: https://library.educause.
edu/resources/2005/1/community-of-practice-design-guide-a-stepbystep-guide-for-designingcultivating-communities-of-practice-in-higher-education
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/nli0531.pdf

Hearn, S. & White, N. 2009. Communities of practice: linking knowledge, policy and practice.
https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/1732.pdf

Hildreth, P. & Kimble, C. 2003. Knowledge Networks: Innovation Through Communities of Practice.
http://www.igi-global.com/book/knowledge-networks-innovation-through-communities/689

Hofmann, J. 2014. 8 facilitation tips for increasing webinar engagement. http://www.igi-global.


com/book/knowledge-networks-innovation-through-communities/689

Kimball, L. 2004. Facilitator Toolkit for Building and Sustaining Virtual Communities of Practice.
Journal of Knowledge Management (Group Jazz, USA) and Amy Ladd (Group Jazz, USA). Brief
introduction: http://www.slideshare.net/mik0ton/facilitating-online-communities

Knowledge Management for Development: Outsourcing community of practice Management


http://wiki.km4dev.org/Outsourcing_Management_of_CoPs

Knowledge Sharing Toolkit: http://www.kstoolkit.org/Communities+of+Practice


Lave, J. & Wenger, E. Communities of practice: http://www.learning-theories.com/communitiesof-practice-lave-and-wenger.html

SDC Learning & Networking: Community of Practice short introduction and comprehensive text.
http://www.sdc-learningandnetworking.ch/en/Home/SDC_KM_Tools/Community_of_Practice

Serrat, Olivier D. 2008. Building Communities of Practice. Asian Development Bank.


http://www.adb.org/publications/building-communities-practice

Serrat, Olivier D. 2009. Building Networks of Practice. Asian Development Bank.


http://www.adb.org/publications/building-networks-practice

Serrat, Olivier D. 2011. Surveying Communities of Practice. Asian Development Bank.


http://www.adb.org/publications/surveying-communities-practice

Tarzimi, H., de Vreede, G. & Zigurs, I. 2006. Identifying challenges for facilitation in communities
of practice. https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/hicss/2006/2507/01/250710026a.pdf

TechSoup. 10 Steps for a Useful Webinar: http://www.techsoup.org/support/articles-and-howtos/10-steps-for-planning-a-successful-webinar

Annex 1

55

Train Smart Developing a successful webinar in 2016: http://www.trainsmartinc.com/5-tipsfor-developing-a-successful-webinar/

Wenger, E. & Snyder, W.M. 2000. Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier. Harvard
Business Review. https://hbr.org/2000/01/communities-of-practice-the-organizational-frontier

Wenger, E. Introduction to communities of practice. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-tocommunities-of-practice/

Wenger, E: Cultivating a Community of Practice: A quick start-up guide. http://wenger-trayner.


com/quick-cop-start-up-guide/

Wenger, E., White, N. & Smith, J.D. 2016. Digital habitats. Stewarding technology for communities.
http://technologyforcommunities.com/

WikiSpaces. 2016. Communities of practice: http://www.kstoolkit.org/Communities+of+Practice


World Bank. Communities of Practice: Questions and Answers. http://siteresources.worldbank.
org/WBI/Resources/CoP_QA.pdf

Young, J. Facilitate.com: Designing Interactive Webinars: Books and articles.

https://www.facilitate.com/support/facilitator-toolkit/docs/Designing-Interactive-Webinars.pdf

56

Annex 1

Annex 2: Example of a feedback form on a learning event


Feedback on FAO climate-smart agriculture in the field learning event
http://bit.ly/fao-feedback-csa-field-event
In order to improve our learning event sessions, we would greatly appreciate if you will take a few
minutes to fill out this feedback survey on the Climate-Smart Agriculture in the Field Learning Event.
This form is only intended for the participants of the event.
Thanks for submitting your feedback (within 2 weeks).
Only questions with a * are obligatory.
Thank you for all feedback!
The MICCA team and partners, FAOs Climate Change, Land Tenure and Energy Division (micca@fao.
org)
*Required
1. a - Please grade this learning event in terms of its content. *

1
()

2
()

3
()

4
()

5
()

Highest

2. How did you take part in this learning event? *


Check all that apply
First Webinar
Second Webinar
Viewing recordings of webinars
Reading emails and/or discussing through email on Dgroup
Chatting through LinkedIn group
I did not participate
Sharing the event with my networks
Exchanging private messages with other participants
Other:

3. Knowledge: Do you feel that you have gained more knowledge on climate change and/or
agriculture? *
Check all that apply
Nothing new
Somewhat
Now I know more than before
Other:

4. Policies: Do you feel that you have gained more knowledge on policies and CSA? *
Check all that apply
Nothing new
Somewhat
Now I know more than before
Other:

Annex 2

57

5.a - What was best about this event?


5.b - Would you have changed some of these issues in the learning event?
Your responses will be taken into account for future planning.
More participants
Less email exchange
Less moderation on the email list Dgroup
Webinars provided at several occasions for different time zones
More webinars
Longer webinars
More speakers per webinar, shorter presentations
More exchange in different language(s) (Please specify which languages in Other)
Technically easier access to webinars
Other:

6. Is there something else that you would have changed or added to the learning event?
Please know that we will take your response into account for future planning.
7. Did you view the background material provided before the webinars?
Please insert the item you viewed in Other
Yes
No
Some
I read something else to prepare
Other:

8. If you did not take part in this learning event, could you please let us know why?
Choose the options that apply in your case
Short on time
Was not informed about the learning event on time
Content was not what I was expecting
Topics were irrelevant to my area of work
Language barrier
Lack of a good internet connection
Webinars: timing not suitable
I got overwhelmed by the amount of emails
Other:

9. Would you be interested in participating in other learning events on topics related to climate
change and agriculture? *
Less email exchange
Less moderation on the email list Dgroup
Webinars provided at several occasions for different time zones
More webinars
Longer webinars
More speakers per webinar, shorter presentations
More exchange in different language(s) (Please specify which languages in Other)
Technically easier access to webinars
Other:

6. Is there something else that you would have changed or added to the learning event?
Please know that we will take your response into account for future planning.

58

Annex 2

7. Do you view the background material provided before the webinars?


Please insert the item you viewed in Other
Yes
No
Some
I read something else to prepare
Other:

8. If you did not take part in this learning event, could you please let us know why?
Choose the options that apply in your case
Short on time
Was not informed about the learning event on time
Content was not what I was expecting
Topics were irrelevant to my area of work
Language barrier
Lack of a good internet connection
Webinars: timing not suitable
I got overwhelmed by the amount of emails
Other:

9. Would you be interested in participating in other learning events on topics related to climate
change and agriculture? *
Yes
No
Maybe
Other:

10. Would you be interested in participating in webinars or learning events covering the following
topics?
Please select all that apply and/or propose another topic for a presentation.
Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) for Agriculture and land use sectors
Your organizations climate change and agriculture project
Presentation done by another member on climate-smart agriculture/climate change mitigation
practices
Facilitating online communities on climate and agriculture
Other:

11. If you would like to give a short presentation in 2015 or 2016 related to climate change and
agriculture, what would be the topic?
Please insert your name and email address so that we can get back to you, thanks!
Voluntary: Your email
Needed only if you would like to receive a response to a specific question.
Voluntary: Your gender
Man
Woman
Other:

Thanks for any other comments and suggestions!

Annex 2

59

Annex 3: Summary of the learning event Agroforestry, food security and


climate change learning event, 2013
The online learning event Agroforestry, food security and climate change gathered expert speakers
and over 600 participants to webinars and online forums to discuss the potential of agroforestry in
addressing major nutritional and environmental issues, as well as ways to better promote its practice.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized the event with key
partners: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education
Centre (CATIE) and French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).
The event facilitated the exchange of knowledge on the role and potential of agroforestry for climate
change mitigation, adaptation and food security. Additionally, recommendations were collected for
policy mechanisms, practices and strategic decision making. Specific considerations were given to the
implementation of FAOs recently published Agroforestry Guidelines, Advancing Agroforestry on the
Policy Agenda: A guide for decision-makers. Furthermore, the learning event contributed to ICRAFs
background paper for the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition.
Four main themes were highlighted by speakers, facilitators of the webinars and participants
throughout the learning event:

agroforestrys potential for climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security;
main barriers to agroforestry development;
opportunities for agroforestry development in a climate change context; and
tracks for action to improve wider development of agroforestry.

Benefits of agroforestry
Agroforestry is an example of a triple-win practice as it can support food security, mitigate climate
change and contribute to adaptation to these changes. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases by
capturing carbon, agroforestry systems also improve resilience to climate variability and extreme
conditions, such as heavy rains or droughts. As such, agroforestry is considered a climate-smart
practice. Moreover, it can significantly improve food security as it provides farmers with diversified
food sources, additional income and improves resilience of the production system, thus improving
the food availability, food accessibility, utilization and food production system stability.

Key bottlenecks to agroforestry development


Nevertheless, the adoption of agroforestry still faces major constraints. The actual predominant
focus on industrial agriculture is a challenge for the implementation of agroforestry as it usually
favors monoculture and short term benefits. During the learning event, participants underlined
the need to overcome the lack of awareness of agroforestry systems among the stakeholders
farmers, extension officers, researchers and decision-makers. Stakeholders are often unaware of
benefits of agroforesty, effective treecrop associations and the factors that determine the adoption
of agroforestry practices. A key bottleneck hindering the development of agroforestry is poor
access, particularly for women, to the resources (capital, labour, farming inputs, land, extension
services, or markets) needed to establish agroforestry systems. Inadequate legislation, regulations
and policies can further hamper the agroforestry development. For instance, in many countries or
regions, agroforestry has no clear status and falls between agricultural and forestry sectors, leaving
agroforestry regulation in a grey area. Nearly all expert speakers of the event underlined problems of
poor coordination or lack of it between: 1) key sectors and stakeholders; 2) agricultural and forestry
sectors; and 3) decision-makers, researchers and farmers.

Opportunities for agroforestry development in a changing climate context


The role of agroforestry in both climate change mitigation and adaptation is progressively being
acknowledged in policy dialogue arenas where climate change is being discussed on local and
international levels. For example, both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognize agroforestry
as a key land use practice for reducing greenhouse gases. Agroforestry is also seen as an economical
way to mitigate climate change. Participants frequently suggested to further include agroforestry

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Annex 3

in development and climate change policy dialogue, particularly with regards to payments for
environmental services (PES). Countries such as Costa Rica have already implemented agroforestry
effectively in their PES system in order to promote the implementation of trees on farm.

Tracks of action for agroforestry development


Participants exchanged possible actions to improve wider development of agroforestry. Suggestions
often focused on continuing lobbying efforts towards decision makers. Potential ways that could
improve knowledge on agroforestry are: wider use of demonstration plots, better access to training for
farmers, improvements in training for extension officers and funding for extension services, as well as
increasing research on adequate treecrop combinations. The need for concrete measures to ensure
that farmers benefit from resources for establishing agroforestry was especially highlighted. Other
important tracks of action mentioned were clarifying policies and regulations, particularly regarding
land and tree tenure, and supporting agroforestry adoption strategies through clear frameworks for
coordination and funding. Participants and speakers agreed on the need of improving coordination
and dialogue between key sectors and stakeholders. The presentation on Malawis agroforestry policy
review underlined that agroforestry adoption cannot be increased and improved if the policies are not
reformulated to take into account the experiences from the field. There needs to be continuous efforts
in both fronts: field and policy levels.

Participants and platforms of the learning event


The event consisted of a series of online webinars and discussions on two online platforms (DGroup
forum and LinkedIn) of the Community of practice for climate change mitigation in agriculture.
Expert speakers from partner organizations and the European Agroforestry Federation, Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research, World Bank and the Federal University of Western
Par in Brazil gave presentations on their work throughout the webinars. Over 600 participants from
over 50 countries shared their experiences and took part in discussions. Most of the participants
of the webinars were at the time involved in activities related to agroforestry or climate change
mitigation in agriculture. Their positions ranged from students to senior level positions in civil society
organizations, national ministries, private corporations and universities. The online learning event
Agroforestry, food security and climate change took place from 5 February to 4 March 2013. The
community continues organizing learning events on topics related to climate change mitigation in
agriculture.

Key links
Links to all recorded webinars, presentations and other material: http://bit.ly/WaWL9h
Join the Community of practice for Climate Change Mitigation in Agriculture: http://bit.ly/YblE3T
LinkedIn group: http://linkd.in/V45Riq
Advancing Agroforestry on the Policy Agenda: A guide for decision-makers: http://bit.ly/Z29bzF
Agroforestry at FAO: www.fao.org/forestry/9469
International Conference on Forests for FSN: www.fao.org/forestry/food-security
Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture Programme: www.fao.org/climatechange/
micca/75369
Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE): www.catie.ac.cr
French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD): www.cirad.fr/en

Annex 3

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Annex 4: 14 Take-home messages from the Climate-Smart Agriculture


event, 2014
1. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has three objectives:
sustainably increasing agricultural productivity which takes into account economical, social
and environmental aspects,
adapting and building resilience to the changing climate, and
reducing and/or removing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) where possible.
2. CSA is not a set of practices that can be universally applied. It is an approach that requires
site-specific assessments. Sectors such as crop production, livestock, forestry, fisheries and
aquaculture can be climate-smart.
3. Adaptation and mitigation: Measures that improve resilience and adaptive capacity of agriculture
can also reduce and/or remove GHG emissions. Adaptation and mitigation are also linked in
that less adaptation is required if GHG emissions are reduced in a timely manner. Agriculture
can make a huge contribution to climate change mitigation. Furthermore, farmers can receive
funds for this effort.
4. Whats new? CSA brings together practices, policies and institutions that are not necessarily
new. However, when used in the context of climatic change, they may be innovative for farmers,
herders and fishers. CSA also marks an innovation over previous agricultural paradigms, in that
it addresses the multiple challenges faced by agriculture and food systems simultaneously
and holistically. This helps avoid the formulation of counterproductive policies, legislation or
financing arrangements.
5.

There are three scales to consider when making the shift towards CSA: the farm level, the
landscape level and the level of the entire food system.

6. Resilience through diversity: Climate change increases the variability of temperature and rain
patterns. In addition, a whole range of extreme events, such as floods, droughts and heat waves
and associated risks such as price volatility, pests and diseases become more likely. In some
cases, it is important to diversify agricultural systems and livelihoods at the farm and landscape
levels to reduce dependency on a few select plant and animal species. Thus, CSA should be
resilient to climate-related shocks.
7.

Different practices for different contexts: Although good CSA practices are specific to agroecological zones, there are some general practices that are gaining popularity, such as
agroforestry, rice systems that reduce methane emissions, improved management of livestock
and soil carbon as well as breeding plants and animals adapted for future climate conditions. All
practices are context-specific. The planning of a climate-smart system should start from future
climate projections and their potential impact on agriculture.

8. We can measure progress in CSA, but it is not easy. It is possible to measure production efficiency
or GHG emissions, but it is much harder to find good tools for measuring adaptation capacities.
Considerable ongoing work is being done on assesements for vulnerability and resilience. Food
security, income and diversification indicators can be used to measure progress in adaptation.
9. The private sector has an essential role to play in CSA, but it may need incentives to become
involved. Businesses of all different sizes, from women selling seeds at local markets to large
national and multinational companies, can be involved in CSA. For instance, entrepreneurs in
information and communications technologies have developed useful tools, such as free text
messaging service in India with weather information, that can be applied to CSA. Weather
insurance systems are another innovation that can support adaptation.
10. National policies should be aligned to create suitable conditions for CSA. Climate change should
be mainstreamed in agricultural policies as well as in policies related to the economy, the
environment, social issues and disaster risk reduction. Likewise, it is important to mainstream
agricultural objectives (food security, poverty reduction, economic growth) into the development
of climate change policies.

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Annex 4

11. Climate-smart policies for agriculture and land use should provide a vision, a direction for
agriculture. Climate-smart agricultural policies should:

recognize and address multiple objectives,


be evidence-based and context-specific, and
cope with uncertainty and focus on adaptive capacity.
12. Some key barriers to adoption of climate-smart policies and practices are:

insecure tenure,
limited access to information,
a lack of financing to support transitions with delayed returns on investment,
inefficient input supply systems, and
a lack of effective institutions for enabling collective action.
13. CSA financing: There are major gaps in financing CSA. The public sector could more effectively
target resources to encourage climate-smart actions. Private and public investments are
the main source of funding for agriculture, so it is vital that these investments are geared to
support climate-smart agricultural development. There are already some emerging climate
finance opportunities such as the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the
BioCarbon Fund.
14. Support for CSA adoption: A global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture is scheduled to be
launched at the Climate Summit organized by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in
September 2014. The working groups of the Alliance will work on knowledge, investments and
enabling environment. Based on a recent survey on knowledge gaps of the CSA, the Alliance
will gather new knowledge especially on: technical interventions and practices, the evidence
base for CSA, support, services and extension for farmers, inclusive knowledge systems and
integrated planning and monitoring.

Annex 4

63

References
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guides/about-netiquette. Online: [Accessed 3 November 2015].
FAO (20122016): Learning events organized by the Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture
(MICCA) Programme. www.fao.org/in-action/micca/resources/learning/
Serrat, O. 2016. A Guide to communities of practice. ADB http://www.slideshare.net/Celcius233/aguide-to-communities-of-practice. Online: [Accessed 31 May 2016].
Strachan, D. 2007. Making Questions Work: A guide to what and how to ask for facilitators, consultants
managers, coaches, and educators. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. & Snyder, W.M. 2002. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A guide to
managing knowledge. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, USA.
Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Learning in Doing:
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References

This guidebook synthesizes


lessons learned from the FAO Mitigation
of Climate Change in Agriculture programmes
work with online communities of practice. It aims to
help others searching for effective ways to organize and
facilitate online communities.
The guidebook is a one-stop resource bank and background for
establishing an online community of practice. It is hoped that it will
encourage practitioners to organize online learning events. The book
is targeted at people working on knowledge management, participatory
approaches, stakeholder consultations and networks to enhance online
capacity development efforts. The guidance is valid for all sectors, but
focuses on challenges related to natural resource management under
climate change in the development context.

Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) Programme

ISBN 978-92-5-109278-1

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)


Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
micca@fao.org
www.fao.org/in-action/micca/

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